Personalities and Public Sector Performance: Evidence from a Health Experiment in Pakistan

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We examine the relationship between policymaker personalities, job performance, and response to reforms in Punjab combining: (i) Big 5 personality and Perry Public Sector Motivation tests of the universe of health inspectors and senior health officials and a large and representative sample of doctors; (ii) measures of job performance from unannounced visits to health facilities; (iii) a randomized controlled evaluation of a novel smart phone monitoring technology; (iv) experimental manipulations of the presentation of data on doctor absence to senior health officials. Three results support the relevance of personalities for performance. First, Big 5 characteristics and Public Sector Motivation positively predict doctor attendance and negatively predict whether doctors collude with inspectors to falsify reports. Second, smart phone monitoring has the largest impact on health inspectors with high Big 5 characteristics—one SD higher health inspector Big 5 index is associated with a 27 percentage point differential increase in inspections due to increased monitoring. Last, senior health officials with high Big 5 characteristics are most likely to respond to a report of underperforming clinic as measured by improved subsequent performance at the facility—one SD higher senior health official Big 5 index is associated with an additional 40 percentage point reduction in doctor absence following an underperforming facility flag in treatment districts. Video: Hear Michael Callen, present the project at the South Asia Growth Conference 2014. Article in the Guardian: Read an article on the project written by the authors.


NBER Working Paper 21180

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