Managers are often expected to hold the key to public service improvements. But how big is this potential for improvement? Does it vary in different contexts? Does larger managerial authority lead to higher public service performance? And how can managers bring about public service improvements? This dissertation contributes to a deeper understanding of the importance of public managers by focusing on these questions. The empirical results are drawn from five quantitative studies of managers in public and private schools in Denmark. The data consists of administrative data on schools and students as well as questionnaires to principals and teachers. Specifically, the dissertation is the first to merge panel data on Danish principals with school data on student performance and social background, enabling stronger research design. By combining theoretical insights and longitudinal research designs from disciplines such as general management and labor economics with classic public management theory, the dissertation offers new and important insights that are critical for the progress of public management research and research on classic public administration themes such as: “Do private and public organizations differ?” and “How can we measure public service performance?” The thesis is relevant for everyone who is interested in the importance of public managers or more generally in how public service performance can be improved.
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