UCL Department of Economics


CReAM Seminar: Guo Xu (Berkeley Haas)

22 May 2023, 4:00 pm–5:30 pm


Strengthening State Capacity: Civil Service Reform and Public Sector Performance during the Gilded Age

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Hyejin Ku

Abstract: We use newly digitized records from the Post Office to study the effects of strengthened state capacity in over 2,300 cities between  1875-1905. Exploiting the staggered implementation of the Pendleton Act – a landmark statute which shielded bureaucrats from political interference – we find that civil service reform reduced postal delivery errors and increased productivity. These improvements  were most pronounced during election years when the reform dampened bureaucratic turnover. Finally, we provide suggestive evidence that reformed cities witnessed declining local partisan newspapers. Separating politics from administration, therefore, not only improved state effectiveness but also weakened the role of local politics. 

Location: Ricardo Lecture Theatre, Drayton House

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