Public Choice

, Volume 133, Issue 3–4, pp 275–295 | Cite as

Staff growth in international organizations: A principal-agent problem? An empirical analysis



The analysis covers 27 international organizations in the years 1950–2001. From the first to the last year, staff increased at a compound average rate of 3.2% per annum, while the number of member states rose by only 2.5%. The pooled analysis of 817 observations (including task proxies and organization dummies) reveals that (i) the elasticity of staff to membership is much larger than unity (1.36), (ii) United Nations organizations have significantly more staff, (iii) international organizations in the United States and Switzerland have significantly less staff, (iv) heterogeneity in terms of per capita income limits the size of an international organization and that (v) its staff is larger if its membership comprises many industrial or (former) communist countries. In a reduced sample, the financing share of the largest contributor in combination with the party or programmatic orientation of its government has a significantly negative effect on staff because the size of the largest financing share determines the incentive to monitor. U.S. exit from an international organization reduces its staff significantly. Most of these results depend on the condition that the non-stationary component of staff size is not taken account of by time dummies or trends.


International organizations Bureaucracy Principal-agent problem Membership size Partisan policies 


F 02 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, BV 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lehrstuhl für VolkswirtschaftslehreUniversität MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.KOF Swiss Economic InstituteETH ZurichZürichSwitzerland
  3. 3.CESifoMunichGermany

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