The child support incentive program: constraints and the capacity for organizational cheating by street-level bureaucrats

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Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Social & Behavioral Science
Department Political Science
Author Graham, Tracy R.
Title The child support incentive program: constraints and the capacity for organizational cheating by street-level bureaucrats
Date 2010-12
Description Many have argued that government "should be run like a business." This argument has evolved throughout the years, but implies that implementing performance measures, benchmarks and incentives will provide inducements for improving organizational performance. While the literature is replete with such arguments, there has been little attention paid to the "wrong-side" of performance management and whether incentive structures result in instances where individuals and organizations engage in efforts to cheat, or "game the system." The nation's child support program is a good example of a government program that has adopted an incentive-based approach. Four state child support agencies, representing varied degrees of performance, allowed their staff to participate in a survey that explored issues of cheating and knowledge of the child support incentive program. This study constructed cheating as the capability of artificially inflating performance levels. The underlying research hypothesis, based on principal-agency theory, suggested that higher levels of cheating would be found among higher incentive earning states. The findings of the study suggested otherwise. The study found that while front-line child support professionals identified performance as being important, few were aware that a child support incentive system existed. This finding is important as it suggests that the incentive structure does little to influence front-line worker behavior and does not appear to have much impact on workers' performance levels. Furthermore, there appeared to be no difference in knowledge levels among workers between high and low performing states. Using multivariate analysis, the key finding of the study was that respondents reporting high levels of role conflict, and lower levels of job satisfaction were more likely to report feeling pressure to cheat. The finding related to role conflict is consistent with the constructs of principal-agency theory suggesting that the more clearly roles are defined, the less likely agents are to act against the wishes of principals. The link between job satisfaction and role conflict on feeling pressure to cheat provides an intriguing starting point from which to further explore the issue of cheating and the applicability of principal-agent theory to explain cheating behavior.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Child support; Child support incentives; Organizational cheating; Principal agency theory; Street-level bureaucrats
Dissertation Institution University of Utah
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management Copyright © Tracy R. Graham 2010
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 440,544 Bytes
Identifier etd3/id/3512
ARK ark:/87278/s6rr56h1
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2015-05-21
Date Modified 2021-05-06
ID 197065
Reference URL
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