Guest co-editors:

Pamela Herd (McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University)
Donald Moynihan (McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown University)



Administrative burdens have been conceptualized as people’s experience of policy implementation as onerous. Burdens include learning costs, i.e., the time and effort it takes to find information about public services and what is required to access them. Such learning costs often mean that people are ignorant of programs they would benefit from, such as welfare supports (Herd and Moynihan 2018). Burdens also come in the form of compliance costs, which include the paperwork needed to demonstrate eligibility, and the time and financial costs required by administrative processes. Demands for documentation have, for example, undermined the effectiveness of cash transfer programs (Heinrich 2016), and mean that residents of the US spend 9.78 billion hours each year completing paperwork for the federal government (Sunstein 2019). A third aspect to administrative burdens are psychological costs, which can take the form of stigma arising from applying for and participating in an unpopular program; loss of autonomy that comes from intrusive state supervision, such as police stops; frustration at dealing with learning and compliance costs, or what are seen as unjust or unnecessary procedures; stresses that arise from uncertainty about whether the individual can negotiate administrative ordeals, such as immigration procedures. 

We are interested in papers that explore the administrative burden framework from a behavioral perspective. This could include, but is not limited to, the following topics: 

  • How people respond to burdens in terms of program participation, or the experience of psychological costs. 
  • How policymaker or administrative beliefs and actions contribute to the creation of burdens. 
  • What factors make policymakers, administrators, and members of the mass public more or less tolerant of burdens. 
  • Design solutions to minimize burdens, such nudges, providing direct help, or redesigning systems. 
  • The ways in which human capital and design solutions alters people’s ability to manage burdens, and the implications for how burdens facilitate inequality across and within groups. 
  • Interdisciplinary reviews that deepen and expand the administrative burden framework. 



Please send the guest editors ( and a title and a short abstract of about 300 words, plus your contact details by the end of January 2020. 

We will convey a decision about which abstracts are accepted to develop into potential papers in early February, with feedback. On this basis, authors will develop their proposals into full papers until the end of May 2020, with publication in early 2021. Please note that final manuscripts will be submitted by the guest co-editors to JBPA for double-blind peer review with final decisions regarding publication being made by JBPA editors. The submitted papers will need to conform to JPBA’s guidelines for paper submissions: