Blog your bureaucracy-related job market paper!

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Photo: Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

Editor's note: This blog post is part of a series for the 'Bureaucracy Lab', a World Bank initiative to better understand the world's public officials.
The World Bank's Bureaucracy Lab has been inspired by the folks at the Development Impact blog to highlight some of the best PhD work on the various academic job markets.

We would like to receive proposals from PhD students on the job market whose work relates to the analysis of public administration for blogs that summarise their job market papers. The best four will be posted on the 'Governance for Development' blog site.

We will follow the same rules as those on the Development Impact site and will accept blogs up until 10 December (see rules below). Given the nature of the Bureaucracy Lab's work, we will be particularly on the look out for clever micro-empirical work, impact evaluation, or frontier measurement. Submit your blog post to
As an example of the sort of work we are looking for, we would like to highlight the job market paper of the first Bureaucracy Lab PhD fellow, Ravi Somani.  His work partly grows out of work he undertook with the Bureaucracy Lab over the last few years, and his blog is below.


Why go to university? To become a bureaucrat of course!
By Ravi Somani

Most high-skilled workers in developing countries are public employees
Public employment is the main occupation of high-skilled workers in developing countries.  In the poorest countries, on average around 50% of employed tertiary-educated workers are public employees (see figure 1).
Figure 1: The figure shows the proportion of employed tertiary-educated individuals working in the public sector. Source: Worldwide Bureaucracy Indicators, World Bank. This means that the relative wages and the number of jobs available in the public sector determine how attractive it is to get a higher education.  
This is the subject of my job-market paper, which analyses the rapid expansion in public universities in Ethiopia during the 2000s.  I show that, as the expansion occurs, only individuals in areas where the public-sector wage premium is high choose to enter higher education.  

What does this mean for private-sector productivity?
As the expansion occurs, wages in the private sector significantly decrease, particularly wages for the best-paying jobs. This suggests that productivity in the private sector also declines because of the expansion.  

Why does this happen if there are now more skilled individuals in the labour market? There are few high-paying jobs in the private sector for tertiary-educated individuals and the public sector pays, on average, twice as much. 

As such, graduates find it worthwhile to spend time searching for public employment and preparing for the lengthy selection procedure that comes with it rather than taking a less well-paying job in the private sector. 

So, as higher education becomes available, and since it is much easier to land a public-sector job with a degree, the most productive individuals choose higher education and public-sector job search over private-sector employment.  

What does this mean for public-sector productivity?
Bureaucrats that enter the civil service after the expansion are significantly more public-service motivated, work significantly more hours per week, and achieve significantly higher scores in their performance appraisals.  These results suggest that public-sector productivity increases because of the expansion.

As there are more graduates on the labour market, two mechanisms ensure that only the most motivated make it through the selection process: (i) the public sector has more graduates to choose from, but the number of jobs (per person) is fixed, therefore it can be choosier in terms of who to offer a job to; (ii) getting a public-sector job is now harder for each individual graduate (there is more competition), therefore only those that are really motivated will endure the lengthy search and selection process with this smaller likelihood of success.

What does this mean for policy?
While it might be tempting to conclude that the public wage should be lower, this would also decrease the attractiveness of getting a higher education.  Instead, by investing in the private sector to generate attractive jobs for the high-skilled, productivity in the private sector can be maintained (or even increased) when higher education expands, while also ensuring that individuals have an incentive to enter higher education.



1. Write a blog post on your job market paper. It should have a title that is not the title of your paper. Your topic should fit into a broad definition of development economics, i.e., it would not stand out from the rest of the posts on Development Impact.
2. Your post should not exceed 1,250 words and can include either 1-2 graphs or tables. (We recommend one figure if there is one that helps to demonstrate your results.)
3. If you'd like to include a figure or a table, save it in a blank PPT slide, save the file as a .jpg file, and send it separately. Send the rest of your submission in MS Word, Calibri 11.
4. Your submission should therefore include (a) your blog post, (b) your paper (attached or linked to), (c) the URL for your Job Market page, and (d) a figure or table (as relevant) sent separately.
5. Any papers you reference should be hyperlinked; do not include any footnotes.
6. The posts will appear as guest posts in the following format: "[TITLE]: Guest post by [NAME]" At the end of the post, please include a line that says something like: "[NAME] is a PhD student (post-doc) at [INSTITUTION].", and hyperlink to your personal webpage if you have one.
7. Governance for Development will not post blogs that have already been posted elsewhere. However, after a post has gone up on Governance for Development, it can be re-posted elsewhere with a link back to Governance for Development.

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