I’d rather do it myself: An experiment on mayoral preferences for managerial autonomy

This research studies whether contextual factors affect decision-makers’ preferences for managerial autonomy. The widespread notion suggests chief executives prefer greater decision- making freedom. However, this preference may be modified by the contextual circumstances, as they may offer different incentives to decision-makers. To test decision-makers’ preference for exercising or relinquishing managerial autonomy under different contexts, we conducted a survey-experiment with 250 Colombian mayors. Specifically, a face-to-face survey instrument asked mayors whether they would relinquish to upper levels of government either formulating and/or implementing a social project benefiting Venezuelan migrants. We manipulated two dimensions of municipal context, which are expected to offer different incentives: (i) project tangibility (school kits and classrooms vs. vaccination campaigns) and (ii) political gains (whether or not migrants have local ties). We expect mayors are less likely to relinquish autonomy when the social project is more tangible (school kits and classrooms) and the political gains are higher (migrants with relatives in the municipality). Also, we expect mayors would more likely prefer autonomy for implementing projects, rather than formulating them. By analyzing mayoral behavioral responses, this study adds to the literature on executive decision-making, intergovernmental relations, migrant incorporation, and the role of incentives in delegating control.

Bello-Gomez, R.A. and Avellaneda, C. I’d rather do it myself: An experiment on mayoral preferences for managerial autonomy.