What determines how long political appointees serve? Academic Article uri icon


  • The president's role as chief executive depends on the quality and tenure of political appointees who assist with the constitutional charge to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed." This study explores the determinants of the duration of political appointee service. Using an agency theory framework, we propose that appointee tenure depends on financial incentives, executive-legislative conflict, solidary, and material benefits offered by the president, as well as implicit incentives that differ across presidential administrations. Using Office of Personnel Management records from January 1982 through August 2003, we employ multivariate survival analysis to confirm most aspects of the theory. The results imply that the most important determinants of political appointee tenure are financial and the difficulty of public administrative service. However, the president can affect exit propensities at the margins by manipulating rewards and implicit incentives that promote loyalty to public service and the administration. The Author 2007. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Inc. All rights reserved.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 3

author list (cited authors)

  • Wood, B. D., & Marchbanks, M.

citation count

  • 28

complete list of authors

  • Wood, B Dan||Marchbanks, Miner PIII

publication date

  • July 2008