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The Performance of Performance Standards

Publication Abstract

Heckman, J.J., C. Heinrich, and Jeffrey A. Smith. 2002. "The Performance of Performance Standards." Journal of Human Resources, 37:778-811.

This paper examines the performance of the JTPA performance system, a widely emulated model for inducing efficiency in government organizations. We present a model of how performance incentives may distort bureaucratic decisions. We define cream skimming within the model. Two major empirical findings are (a) that the short-run measures used to monitor performance are weakly, and sometimes perversely, related to long-run impacts and (b) that the efficiency gains or losses from cream skimming are small. We find evidence that centers respond to performance standards.

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