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Political Science and Political Economy Research Seminar

The Social Bureaucrat: How Social Proximity among Bureaucrats Affects Local Governance

Tugba Bozcaga (Harvard)

Tuesday 05 October 2021 14:00 - 15:30

This event is both online and in person

32L 3.05, 3rd Floor Conference Room, LSE, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PH

Many of our seminars and public events this year will continue as online seminars or as online and in person. Please check our website listings and Twitter feed @STICERD_LSE for updates.

Unless otherwise specified, current restrictions mean in-person seminars are only open to members of the LSE community (those with a valid LSE ID card).

Those unable to join the seminars in-person are welcome to participate via zoom.


About this event

Most studies that examine subnational variations in public services associate low government performance with a lack of accountability. I instead offer a capacity-based explanation. Specifically, I develop a theory based on bureaucratic efficiency and argue that bureaucratic efficiency increases with social proximity among bureaucrats, bureaucrats’ informal ties with other bureaucrats in their jurisdiction, because informal ties do not only serve communication or socialization purposes but also decrease transaction costs associated with the production process of public services. Testing the observable implications of this theory, I find that social proximity, as proxied by geographic proximity, increases bureaucratic efficiency. However, in line with theoretical expectations, geographic proximity is less likely to lead to high bureaucratic efficiency in socially fragmented network structures or when there are ethnic divisions between bureaucrats. Six months of fieldwork in Turkey inform the descriptive inferences underlying the theory and its observable implications. I leverage a geographical regression discontinuity design to test my theory. My empirical tests employ novel administrative data from Turkey’s over 35,000 villages and 970 districts, geospatial indicators constructed using spatial analysis tools and satellite images, and antenna-level mobile call detail records. This study advances research on public goods provision and state capacity by revealing capacity-driven sources of government performance and demonstrating that state capacity can vary systematically by the local social context.

The Political Science and Political Economy (PSPE) research group at the LSE brings together faculty and PhD students who do quantitative and/or formal research on political institutions, political behaviour, public policy, and political economy.

The PSPE Research Seminar provides a venue for researchers (mostly from outside of the LSE) to present their work.

These seminars are held on Tuesdays in term time at 14.00-15.30, both ONLINE AND IN PERSON in room 32L 3.05, unless specified otherwise.

Seminar coordinator: Dr Stephane Wolton

Contact gov.comms@lse.ac.uk to be added to the mailing list and to recieve the zoom link.


This event will take place in 32L 3.05, 3rd Floor Conference Room, LSE, 32 Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2A 3PH. The building is labelled on the map.

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