QoG lunch seminar with Daniel Brieba

Society and economy

Bureaucratic Selection, Merit, and the Price of Political Loyalty

22 Mar 2023
12:00 - 13:00
Stora Skansen (room B336), Sprängkullsgatan 19

Daniel Brieba, Fellow in Public Policy and Political Science at LSE // Profesor en Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez
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The QoG institute regularly organizes seminars related to research on Quality of Government, broadly defined as trustworthy, reliable, impartial, uncorrupted and competent government institutions.

All seminars are held in English unless stated otherwise.
The Quality of Government Institute


A perennial question in political science is the degree to which bureaucratic selection is influenced by competence vis-à-vis political loyalties. In this paper, I first combine a novel dataset containing the individual careers of about 325,000 Chilean central government bureaucrats (2006-2020) with data for twelve years of university admissions test scores (1996-2007), matching about 90,000 of them. Using this fine-grained measure of cognitive ability, I find that test scores are highly predictive of bureaucratic advancement, and show evidence suggesting that selection on ability, and not just on class origin, drives this result. I then add data on civil servants’ membership in centre-left (governing) parties for 2017, finding that, in professional and managerial positions, political loyalties indeed partially substitute for cognitive ability: party members have lower scores than comparable non-members. I thus provide a “shadow price” for the trade-off between ability and party loyalty at different levels of the administrative hierarchy.