Job Satisfaction and Citizen Satisfaction with Street-level Bureaucrats : Is There a Satisfaction Mirror?

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279–295
Journal / PublicationJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number2
Online published13 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023



It is often argued that employees satisfied with their jobs perform better, which in turn will lead customers to be more satisfied. Private sector studies have found support for this “satisfaction mirror” hypothesis. Our study is the first to provide direct, individual-level evidence of its existence in the public sector. We conducted an original survey of village officials in small, rural Chinese villages, and local citizens interacting with them. Village officials are charged with delivering nearly all types of public services to citizens. They are typical street-level bureaucrats, directly interacting with citizens with a degree of discretion. We focus on the senior village official, known as village director. We link the responses of 949 citizens to their corresponding 96 village directors to test the connection between job satisfaction and individual citizens’ satisfaction with these village officials’ work. Using structural equation models and causal mediation modeling (all N = 949), we find evidence in accordance with a “satisfaction mirror.” To assess potential social desirability bias, we conduct a list experiment. Taking this into account and relying on an external performance measure still yields a substantively meaningful estimate of a “satisfaction mirror.” Our study theoretically and empirically identifies the linkage between job satisfaction of street-level bureaucrats and citizen satisfaction as a key aspect of citizen–state relations. © The Author(s) 2022. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Public Management Research Association.

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