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Citizen Reactions to Bureaucratic Encounters: Different ways of coping with public authorities

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Common to most studies on street-level bureaucrats is a fundamental acknowledgment that behaviors of citizens with whom the street-level bureaucrats interact play an important role for their decision-making. However, within literature, there is a lack of generic and systematic attention to the agency of the citizens. This article aims to respond to this criticism and answer the questions: How do citizens cope with public encounters? Do citizen behaviors towards public authorities divide into distinct, meaningful, multidimensional behavior types? Through an explorative theory-based approach, the article opens those questions. Based on self-reported survey-data on behavior, from a representative sample of Danish citizens, we use latent class analysis (LCA) to identify systematic patterns in citizens' behavior towards public authorities (exemplified by Tax and Home Care Referral authorities). We identify five types of citizen coping behavior in public encounters: "Resisters,""Activists,""Accommodators,""Flighters,"and "Cooperators."The five types of coping behaviors can be placed in a three-dimensional space measuring degree of activity, degree of preparation, and degree of opposition. We suggest that this insight and conceptual framework of citizen coping behavior can create a starting point for researchers to embark a research agenda on citizens' coping behavior in citizen-state encounters.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbermuaa046
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Pages (from-to)381-398
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

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