How citizens’ dissatisfaction with street-level bureaucrats’ exercise of discretion leads to the alternative supply of public services: the case of Israeli marriage registrars

Niva Golan-Nadir, Nissim Cohen, Aviad Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Can street-level bureaucrats’ exercise of discretion lead to clients’ dissatisfaction with policy implementation? If so, under what conditions could such disaffection lead to the alternative supply of public services? Building on Albert Hirschman’s model of exit, voice, and loyalty, this article contributes to the literature by pointing to street-level bureaucrats’ exercise of discretion as influencing citizens’ dissatisfaction with policy implementation. We identify three main elements—personal, organizational, and environmental—influencing discretion informally, causing clients’ dissatisfaction. We also point to a combination of three conditions triggering the creation of an alternative supply of services: (1) citizens’ dissatisfaction with policy implementation; (2) street-level bureaucrats’ monopoly over policy implementation because only one supplier exists; and (3) clients’ perceptions of participation channels as blocked. Using a qualitative case study approach, we test our claims by analyzing the case of Israeli marriage registrars. We demonstrate how Israeli citizens’ dissatisfaction with how government bureaucrats implement marriage regulations led to the creation of the Tzohar non-governmental organization that provides alternative marriage services. Points for practitioners In situations in which street-level bureaucrats have a monopoly over policy implementation and citizens feel they cannot exercise their voice about that implementation, their dissatisfaction with how street-level bureaucrats use their discretion in implementing the policy may eventually lead to the creation of alternative sources of public services.

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.

Keywords

  • alternative supply channels
  • discretion
  • street-level bureaucrats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration

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