Nepotism and Meritocracy
Despite the crucial importance of a well-functioning and impartial public administration for growth and well-being, we know little of how such bureaucracies can be created, and why elites allow them to be. One reason for this dearth of studies is that there are few to none quantitative measures of historical bureaucratic development. This paper analyzes the surnames of civil servants in the Swe-dish central public administration over 200 years to track nepotism in recruitment. A decline in nepotism is registered during the 19th century. The nobility however continued to thrive in the ad-ministration even after reform, due to disproportionate access to education. Paradoxically, birth was thus an important predictor of success in a system that generally was considered meritocratic. This continuity could explain why the old elite accepted reform.
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