Research on Street-Level Discretion in the West : Past, Present, and the Future

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journal

View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-622
Issue number4
Online published31 Aug 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Lipsky's Street-Level Bureaucracy (1980) led to a major paradigm shift in the study of public administration and bureaucracy. It identified discretion by frontline workers as a critical issue in the study of street-level bureaucracy. Chinese scholars have since 2000 joined research on street-level bureaucracy. Some reviews of the English literature on street-level bureaucracy have been published in China. This paper discusses some major issues in research on street-level discretion in the West, drawing on Hupe and Buffat (Public Manag Rev 16(4):548-569, 2014); Maynard-Moody and Portillo (The Oxford handbook of American bureaucracy. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 255-277, 2010); Portillo and Rudes (Annu Rev Law Soc Sci 10:321-334, 2014). Compared with the Chinese reviews noted above, this paper is a more substantial and updated summary and assessment of the literature on street-level discretion. It also raises some issues for future research on frontline discretion in China.

Research Area(s)

  • Lipsky, Street-level bureaucracy, Discretion, Frontline work, Policy implementation, BUREAUCRATS, ACCOUNTABILITY, ENFORCEMENT, FRONTLINE, REFORM, CONSTRUCTION, ORGANIZATION, GOVERNANCE, COMMUNITY