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Contingent Professionalism: Bureaucratic Mobility and the Adoption of Water Conservation Rates

Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory , Volume 20 (2) – Apr 1, 2010


Oxford University Press
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Contingent Professionalism: Bureaucratic Mobility and the Adoption of Water Conservation Rates


Professional networks are widely recognized as important sources of environmental protection policy innovation. I argue that innovations are most likely to diffuse from professions to governments under conditions of bureaucratic job mobility. When an agency head arrives from outside the government he serves, she carries both a reputation and mandate for innovation. The incentives for innovation are less potent when an agency head is promoted from within. The result is mobility-contingent professionalism , for the priorities of an administrator's profession are more likely to become manifest in policy when she arrives from outside than when she is promoted from within an agency. Analysis of data from an original survey of water utility executives tests the effect of career path and professional involvement on utilities’ adoption of conservation-oriented water rate structures. I find that executive career path is a strong predictor of an agency's adoption of conservation rates, even after accounting for climatic and institutional conditions. Further, the effect of professional involvement is contingent on career path: Professionalism is strongly associated with adoption of conservation rates for diagonally mobile executives but not for executives promoted from within.
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