DP13963 Patronage for Productivity: Selection and Performance in the Age of Sail

Author(s): Hans-Joachim Voth, Guo Xu
Publication Date: August 2019
Date Revised: March 2020
Keyword(s): Management, motivation, patronage, Performance, Royal Navy, selection
Programme Areas: Labour Economics, Public Economics, Economic History
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=13963

Patronage is a byword for poor performance, yet it remains pervasive. We study the selection effects of patronage in the world's most successful navy â?? the British Royal Navy between 1690 and 1849. Using newly collected data on the battle performance of more than 5,800 naval officers promoted â?? with and without family ties â?? to the top of the navy hierarchy, we find that connected promotees outperformed unconnected ones. Therewas substantial heterogeneity among the admirals in charge of promotions. Discretion over appointments thus created scope for "good" and "bad" patronage. Because most admirals promoted on the basis of merit and did not favor their kin, the overall selection effect of patronage was positive.