Do public officials exhibit social class biases when they handle casework? Evidence from multiple correspondence experiments.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Are public officials more responsive to requests from affluent or poor constituents? A growing body of evidence suggests that lawmakers are more responsive to the rich when they craft policy. However, some scholars theorize that officials also exhibit a corresponding bias in favor of the poor when they handle casework, essentially giving policy to the rich and services to the poor. In this paper, we test this casework prediction using four experiments in which confederates sent simple requests to state or local officials. In each, our confederates' reported social classes were randomly assigned and signaled with a brief introductory statement mentioning the sender's occupation or economic situation. Across our samples, we find precisely-estimated null effects of social class biases: the officials we studied were equally likely to respond regardless of the constituent's class. These findings raise doubts about whether casework is really a class-biased process.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Carnes, N; Holbein, J

Published Date

  • January 2019

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 14 / 3

Start / End Page

  • e0214244 -

PubMed ID

  • 30917183

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC6436734

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1932-6203

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1932-6203

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1371/journal.pone.0214244


  • eng