Theses Doctoral

When Do Agencies Have Agency? Bureaucratic Noncompliance and Dynamic Lawmaking in United States Statutory Law, 1973-2010

Yaver, Miranda Elyse

This dissertation provides a novel evaluation of the extent to which, and the conditions under which United States administrative agencies are able to push policy toward their preferences rather than being wholly faithful to their legislative principals, in ways that I refer to as noncompliance. I evaluate this bureaucratic behavior in the context of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior from 1973 to 2010. I collected extensive original data on institutional responses to these agency actions, and using these new data found robust support for the core separation-of-powers hypotheses that legislative-executive conflict, polarization in Congress, and disagreement with the delegating legislation powerfully contribute to agencies stepping outside their discretionary windows rather than exercising regulatory compliance. To evaluate the policy consequences of this bureaucratic behavior with respect to policy volatility and long-term bureaucratic discretion to implement public policy, I created an additional original dataset of statutory amendments to the legislation under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency. I find strong support for noncompliance in the prior period leading Congress to considerably revise agency discretion in the way of adding specificity to the texts or imposing additional oversight provisions that constrain agency actions moving forward. Thus, agencies' willingness to step outside of their discretionary windows so as to achieve shorter-term policy goals has important longer-term consequences with respect to their range of discretion and the scope of administrative capacity in a world of bureaucratic governance. The dissertation has broad implications for our understanding of the factors shaping de facto policy outcomes in a conflictual separation-of-powers setting, and the evolving scope of the American administrative state.


  • thumnail for Yaver_columbia_0054D_12900.pdf Yaver_columbia_0054D_12900.pdf application/pdf 1.79 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Wawro, Gregory J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 22, 2015