Public Policy

Drivers and Limiters of Policy Change: Interest Group Competition and Path Dependence in State Charter School Policies



Policies change slowly and incrementally after enactment, if they change at all. Notions of path dependence hold that the influence early decisions and institutional designs hold over policy prevent serious change. Early decision lock-in ways in which benefitting interests interact with institutions regarding the policy. Policies are therefore highly resistant to efforts of interest groups, lawmakers, and even the public to change their trajectories. I test the influence of path dependent inertia versus ongoing efforts of interest groups regarding the shape of charter school policies in the American states from 1996 to 2016. I find that strict notions of path dependence do not manifest in charter policies, and that pressure from competing interest groups starts to emerge a few years after enactment, influence that can slowly start to change the arc of a policy’s development despite the influence of institutions and expectations set at the time of its enactment.


Thumbnail image of Holyoke Paper.pdf


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