Bureaucratic expertise, overconfidence, and policy choice Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2016 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Classic theory on bureaucracy suggests that one primary source of bureaucratic power in public administration and the policy-making process derives from bureaucratic issue-specific expertise. Studies in psychology and behavioral economics suggest that experienced experts tend to be overconfident in estimating their expertise, but few researchers have examined whether experienced bureaucrats are prone to overconfidence and, if so, how overconfidence may correlate with their policy choice. Drawing on past theoretical and empirical literature, this study is the first to investigate these questions by using survey data collected from 579 officials in various agencies related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Our analyses demonstrate that (a) the level of issue-specific expertise perceived by individual bureaucrats is positively associated with their work experience/job relevance to climate change, (b) more experienced bureaucrats tend to be more overconfident in assessing their expertise, and (c) overconfidence, independently of sociodemographic characteristics, attitudinal factors and political ideology, correlates positively with bureaucrats’ risk-taking policy choices.

altmetric score

  • 18.008

author list (cited authors)

  • Liu, X., Stoutenborough, J., & Vedlitz, A.

citation count

  • 15

publication date

  • November 2016