Department of Political Science

Human Capital and Administrative Burden: The Role of Cognitive Resources in Citizen-State Interactions

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One means by which the state reinforces inequality is by imposing administrative burdens that loom larger for citizens with lower levels of human capital. Integrating insights from various disciplines, this article focuses on one aspect of human capital: cognitive resources. The authors outline a model that explains how burdens and cognitive resources, especially executive functioning, interrelate. The article then presents illustrative examples, highlighting three common life factors—scarcity, health problems, and age‐related cognitive decline. These factors create a human capital catch‐22, increasing people's likelihood of needing state assistance while simultaneously undermining the cognitive resources required to negotiate the burdens they encounter while seeking such assistance. The result is to reduce access to state benefits and increase inequality. The article concludes by calling for scholars of behavioral public administration and public administration more generally to incorporate more attention to human capital into their research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Administration Review
Pages (from-to)127-136
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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