Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy
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Research Handbook on Street-Level Bureaucracy

The Ground Floor of Government in Context

Edited by Peter Hupe

When the objectives of public policy programmes have been formulated and decided upon, implementation seems just a matter of following instructions. However, it is underway to the realization of those objectives that public policies get their final substance and form. Crucial is what happens in and around the encounter between public officials and individual citizens at the street level of government bureaucracy. This Research Handbook addresses the state of the art while providing a systematic exploration of the theoretical and methodological issues apparent in the study of street-level bureaucracy and how to deal with them.
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Chapter 6: Street-level bureaucracy research and social inequality

Gabriela Lotta and Roberto Pires


The chapter invites street-level bureaucracy researchers to analytically explore public service workers/users encounters as potential loci for the reproduction of social inequalities. The authors recognize current theoretical lacunae in connecting debates about the reproduction of social inequalities and about the implementation part of the policy process. Their goal is to explore these intersections and offer adequate analytical lenses by reviewing approaches, concepts and methods in the existing literature. They found that social inequality has most commonly been treated as a consequence of street-level implementation, one among many potential results of discretionary decision-making (i.e. distributive injustice). The authors go beyond this mainstream view by adding alternative ways to bring social inequality to the centre of analysis of street-level implementation: as a factor interfering with street-level bureaucrats’ moral judgements and acts of classification and also as a condition permeating their interactions with service users.

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