Failing the Test: The Countervailing Attitudinal Effects of Civil Service Examinations

Thursday, September 23, 2021
11:30 AM - 1:00 PM

Online, via Zoom


About the Seminar: Nick surveyed the universe of recent applicants to the Indonesian civil service to study the effects of high-stakes examinations on political attitudes. Leveraging applicants' scores on the civil service examination, he employs a regression discontinuity design to compare the attitudes of applicants who narrowly failed against those who narrowly passed. Nick shows that the simple fact of failure on the civil service examination negatively affects applicants’ belief in the legitimacy of the process, some attitudes towards outgroups, and national identification. Next, Nick found that applicants who were offered – and accepted – employment in the civil service reported higher satisfaction with the process, greater amity towards outgroups, and higher national identification. Since more applicants fail than pass, these results suggest that civil service examination outcomes may have unintended consequences for social cohesion – particularly in contexts where successful applicants disproportionately hail from specific ethnic, racial, or religious groups.



For Fall Quarter 2021, we will be hosting a hybrid weekly Research Seminar Series. All events will be open to the public online via Zoom, and a limited-capacity in-person element for Stanford affiliates may be added in accordance with the County's health and safety guidelines.

About the Speaker: Nick is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California, Berkeley, studying comparative politics. Most of his research is interested in identifying whether and when certain political institutions worsen group-based antagonisms. He has a particular regional interest in Southeast Asia.

Nicholas Kuipers