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Title:The Incremental Budgetary Theory Revisited: An Empirical Study of Congressional Appropriations
Author(s):Olson, David Richard
Department / Program:Accountancy
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Political Science, Public Administration
Abstract:There are two general theories that attempt to describe and explain the resource allocation process in the public sector: (1) the traditional (or rational) theory; and (2) the incremental theory. Through the work of Aaron Wildavsky and other empirical researchers, the incremental theory has received substantial, though not universal, support in the political science-public administration literature. This study closely examines the basis of the incremental theory and the methodology used to build and test the theory and raises two questions about the theory: (1) In focusing on the budgetary behavior of the legislature, is it appropriate to study total agency budgets when it is well known that legislative involvement goes well beyond agency totals? and (2) Can the methodology of regression analysis be used in the context of the incremental theory without giving some attention to an analysis of regression residuals?
Five Congressional appropriations subcommittees and a subset of 47 Federal bureau-agencies that had earlier formed the strongest case for incrementalism were studied during two carefully chosen four-year periods (1961-1964 and 1969-1972) where, according to the incremental theory, the important budgetary relationships could be expected to remain stable and therefore incremental. The basic incremental model where Congressional appropriations are a simple, linear function of executive budget requests was used to analyze three different levels of budgetary decision making: (1) subcommittee totals; (2) agency totals, similar to earlier work; and (3) "micro" level. In the case of the micro level decision making, a detailed analysis of regression residuals was also performed.
The results of the study confirm the work of earlier researchers that have questioned the basis of the incremental theory by showing that even during periods unaffected by political and economic shocks, the Congressional appropriations subcommittees make decisions and choices about programs and projects in a way that cannot be adequately described or explained by the incremental theory.
Issue Date:1987
Description:318 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1987.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8711843
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-16
Date Deposited:1987

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