Published: June 16, 2020

Krister Andersson, University of Colorado Boulder; Alan Zarychta, University of Chicago; Tara Grillos, Purdue Univerity. 

Published: December 30, 2019


This article draws on health sector reform in Honduras to examine the mechanisms through which governance reforms shape the behavior of street‐level bureaucrats. It combines insights from behavioral public administration with original data from lab‐in‐the‐field workshops conducted with more than 200 bureaucrats to assess the relationship between decentralization and motivation. Findings show strong evidence that motivation, measured as self‐sacrifice, is higher among bureaucrats in decentralized municipalities compared with bureaucrats in comparable centrally administered municipalities. Increased motivation is most pronounced in decentralized systems led by nongovernmental organizations compared with those led by municipal governments or associations. Additionally, the evidence suggests that higher motivation is related to changes in the composition of staff rather than socialization or changes among existing staff. Overall, this research helps move beyond indiscriminate calls for decentralization by highlighting the interplay between reform design and bureaucratic behavior, as well as the limitations of governance reforms in motivating more experienced bureaucrats.

Click here to read more