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Justice in the Delivery of Government Services [United States]: Decision Norms of Street-Level Bureaucrats in Select Southwest and Midwest U.S. Cities, 1996-1999 (ICPSR 3324)

Principal Investigator(s): Maynard-Moody, Steven, University of Kansas. Policy Research Institute and Department of Public Administration; Musheno, Michael, Arizona State University. School for Justice Studies


This study examined the various factors involved in the decision norms of street-level bureaucrats. The principal investigators explored how police officers, school teachers, and vocational rehabilitation counselors decided what was fair and right in individual cases and how this assessment affected the delivery of governmental services. The data in this collection consist of street-level work stories or narratives, semi-structured entry and exit interviews, and a structured questionnaire. Participants from the aforementioned job categories were drawn from select southwest and midwest United States cities over a period of three years (1996-1999). Part 1 includes the quantitative data from the structured questionnaire. Part 2 includes transcripts of the narratives and interviews. The entry interview was designed to gather background information on the participants and to explain and schedule the story collection process. Participants were queried about their work history, current job, and relations with citizen-clients, coworkers, and supervisors. They were asked to describe their various personal, professional, and group identities and how their social identities related to those of the citizens with whom they interacted. They were also asked to describe any critical incidents in the history of their agency, such as a public scandal or change of administration, that influenced their work environment. At the conclusion of the entry interview, the participants were given instructions and materials for the narratives. The participants were asked to write down a rough outline of two or three different stories describing situations that took place within their agency. These stories were to focus on instances when the participants' perception of "fairness or unfairness" impacted their decision-making in encounters with citizen-clients or with the agency. The narratives were collected during a scheduled meeting between the researcher and participant. The researcher asked the participant to tell his or her stories, which were tape-recorded. During the initial storytelling, the researchers interrupted as little as possible, asking questions at the conclusion to encourage the story teller to fill in missing or unelaborated details. The tape-recorded stories were transcribed verbatim. The transcripts were lightly edited for clarity and to introduce the observations added in response to researcher probes. The exit interview involved a structured questionnaire and a brief open-ended interview. The questionnaire data were not intended to allow for statistical inference but to describe the participants. The questionnaire asked direct questions about discretion and justice as well as a series of standard questions on task authority, task variety, the frequency of work expectations, the applicability and clarity of rules, and the percentage of time spent working directly with citizen-clients. Participants were queried about the adequacy of resources, work load, job satisfaction, and perceptions of fairness at work. They were also asked questions on ideology and political orientation, as well as hypothetical questions regarding the distribution of rules. The exit interview involved three open-ended questions: What the word "justice" meant to participants, whether participants felt there were groups in America that were treated unfairly, and if any of the rules or procedures at work struck participants as unfair.

Access Notes

  • Data in this collection are available only to users at ICPSR member institutions. Please log in so we can determine if you are with a member institution and have access to these data files.

    One or more files in this collection have special restrictions ; consult the restrictions note to learn more.

    To protect respondent privacy, Part 2 (Qualitative Interview and Narrative Data) is restricted from general dissemination. Users interested in obtaining these data must complete an Agreement for the Use of Confidential Data, specify the reasons for the request, and obtain IRB approval or notice of exemption for their research. Apply for access to these data through the ICPSR Restricted Data Contract Portal, which can be accessed via the study home page.


DS0:  Study-Level Files
DS1:  Quantitative Questionnaire Data - Download All Files (0.9 MB)
ASCII + SAS Setup    SPSS Setup   
DS2:  Qualitative Interview and Narrative Data
No downloadable data files available.

Study Description


Maynard-Moody, Steven, and Michael Musheno. Justice in the Delivery of Government Services [United States]: Decision Norms of Street-Level Bureaucrats in Select Southwest and Midwest U.S. Cities, 1996-1999. ICPSR03324-v1. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2004. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03324.v1

Persistent URL: https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR03324.v1

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  • EndNote XML (EndNote X4.0.1 or higher)


This study was funded by:

  • National Science Foundation (SBR-9511169)

Scope of Study

Subject Terms:    bureaucracy, civil service, counselors, government agencies, government employees, government services, police, police citizen interactions, police community relations, police departments, social services, teacher attitudes, teacher student relationship, teachers, vocational rehabilitation

Geographic Coverage:    United States

Time Period:   

  • 1996--1999

Date of Collection:   

  • 1996--1999

Universe:    Street-level bureaucrats in select southwest and midwest United States cities.

Data Type(s):    survey data, and machine-readable text

Data Collection Notes:

The codebook for Part 1 and the qualitative interview data (Part 2) are provided by ICPSR as Portable Document Format (PDF) files. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided on the ICPSR Web site.


Sample:    Nonrandom, stratified purposeful sample, consisting of three different types of street-level bureaucrats: police officers, vocational rehabilitation counselors, and middle school teachers distributed across five sites in two states. Forty-eight participants were drawn from select southwest and midwest United States cities over a period of three years (1996-1999).

Data Source:

personal interviews and self-enumerated questionnaires


Original ICPSR Release:   2005-01-27

Version History:

  • 2006-01-18 File CB3324.ALL.PDF was removed from any previous datasets and flagged as a study-level file, so that it will accompany all downloads.

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