Joshua R. Bruce

Papers in Progress


1. “Public Contracting for Private Innovation: Government Capabilities, Decision Rights, and Performance Outcomes.” With John M. de Figueiredo and Brian S. Silverman, second revise and resubmit.

Abstract: We examine how the U.S. Federal Government selects governance structures for R&D contracts with private-sector firms. The government chooses between two contractual forms – grants and cooperative agreements – where the latter provides the government with substantially greater discretion over, and monitoring of, project progress. Using novel data both on R&D contracts and on the technical expertise available in specific government bureau locations, we test implications from the organizational economics and capabilities literature. We find that cooperative agreements are more likely to be used for early-stage projects and when the local government bureau personnel have relevant technical expertise; in turn, cooperative agreements yield greater innovative output as measured by patents and citations, controlling for the endogeneity of contract form. The results are consistent with multi-task agency and transaction cost approaches that emphasize decision rights and monitoring.


2. “Wage and Promotion Outcomes Due to Human and Social Capital Accumulation in the U.S. Civil Service, 1989-2011.” Manuscript in preparation.

Working Abstract: Is it better to be a specialist or a generalist over one’s career? Specialization has historically been identified as a successful strategy in human capital enhancement and job signaling. However, recent evidence suggests generalists may be reaping greater economic rewards than expected, due to both skill complementarities with specialists and through increased social capital. This empirical paper compares and tests theories of specialist advantage from labor economic, management, and sociological perspectives using a comprehensive administrative data set on the careers of U.S. federal civil servants over a 22-year period. While specialization is indeed a successful strategy for some employees, career generalism confers benefits on other employees, particularly in settings where specialists outnumber generalists. Furthermore, coherent generalist careers, comprised of diverse experiences confined to a single broad occupational field, are more advantageous than just specializing in a single niche within an occupational area. Atypical careers are also shown to benefit employees by conferring increased social capital, though the return to atypicality is substantially reduced if it renders employees incomparable with their local peers.