Date of Graduation
This study is concerned with discretion of street level or front-line professionals in the implementation of public policy. The study attempts to determine the extent to which discretion produces varying attempts to determine the extent to which discretion produces varying interpretations of policy and case information. Possible variation in interpretation would produce inconsistency or lack of uniformity in decisions within an organization. This study attempts to test one solution of the inconsistency or lack of uniformity associated with the exercise of discretion by simulating eligibility decisions in hypothetical cases, and using a post-test only non-equivalent control group design. That solution is to provide structure to the decision process to assure that certain variables are considered by the decision makers. The study also surveys perceptions of participants relating to discretion and other variables. Finally, based upon the literature of policy implementation, professionalism, rule orientation and job satisfaction of conselors is measured as indirect variables when considering the effects of structure. A single state vocational rehabilitation (VR) agency served as the research site. Sixty-five front-line professional rehabilitation counselors comprised the two groups of participants. The focus of the study was VR eligibility policy. Data consisted of thirteen-hundred simulated decisions and a survey questionnaire containing seventy items and measuring nineteen variables. The main research findings can be related to three questions. What effect does structure have on front-line discretionary decisions? Do front-line counselors see themselves as having discretion in their operations? And, what are the correlates of those perceptions of discretion? Four dimensions of eligibility decisions were analyzed in this study (actual decision estimates, uniformity, internal relationships, and indirect effects of structure). There was evidence that the decisions of the experimental group were made more uniform without affecting the outcomes or the relationships of the decisions. Moreover, there was some evidence that the structuring device had a mediating effect on some variables and facilitating effect on other variables as they related to the decisions. The front-line counselors participating in the study considered themselves to have and desire considerable discretion. Weak correlations were found to exist between perceptions of discretion and several attitude variables.
JONES, ANTONIO EMERY, "DISCRETION IN THE IMPLEMENTATION OF PUBLIC POLICY: THE CASE OF VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION." (1983). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 9125.