Not separate, but certainly unequal: The burdens and coping strategies of low-status street-level bureaucrats

Gabriela Lotta, Morgana G.Martins Krieger, Nissim Cohen, Charles Kirschbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The literature has usually regarded street-level bureaucrats (SLBs) as relatively privileged bureaucrats, neglecting an important sub-group of these civil servants: low-status SLBs. Even though they may be members of a team with other SLBs who have more status, they may suffer from intraorganizational inequality, meaning unequal access to resources and the requirement that they perform informal tasks associated with their unequal position in the organization. We examine the unique challenges low-status SLBs are often confronted with, and how they cope with them. Based on 94 interviews with community health workers in Brazil, we identify several types of burdens associated with their ambiguous tasks, as well as the strategies they use to cope with these burdens. The analyses suggest that the burdens and coping strategies are an important source of the inequality on the team. The paper discusses the importance of considering the diversity of roles occupied by SLBs and the inequalities within teams.

Original languageEnglish
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Gabriela Lotta and Charles Kirschbaum thank to Fapesp for funding part of data collection (Process [2017/24750‐0; 2019/13439‐7, CEPID CEM]). Gabriela Lotta also thanks to Fapesp under the Process 2019/24495‐5 and thanks the Brazilian Council for Scientific Research (CNPq) for the Research Productivity Scholarship (Process 305180/2018–5).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Wiley Periodicals LLC.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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