Public Employees as Elected Politicians: Assessing the Substantive Effects of Passive Representation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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- Scientific articles 
In many countries, public sector employees are eligible to hold political offices during their employment as civil servants. This often triggers conflict-of-interest concerns that elected public employees might sway policies to their professional benefit. In this article, we build on representation scholarship in political science and public administration to assess such substantive effects of public employees’ political representation using detailed Norwegian administrative register and survey data (2003-2019). Our main results indicate that public employees differ little from other members within their party in terms of ideology and policy preferences. They do, however, appear to move their party slightly towards the left of the political spectrum, consistent with preference spillover effects induced by heightened public sector representation. Finally, using an instrumental variable approach exploiting close elections, we find that political representation of public employees is associated with at best modest public spending, employment and wage effects at the local level.