Holona Ochs, Ph.D.


Lehigh University

Address: 9 West Packer Avenue

City: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania - 18018

Country: United States

About Me:

I am an associate professor of political science at Lehigh University. My research examines the “welfarist left hand" and the "carceral right hand" of the state, with particular attention on attempts to efficiently wash one hand with the other as a part of strategies pursued by some business interests to increase inequality and subject people to escalating social controls. My efforts in this regard are aimed at generating an understanding of the contractual arrangements that foster mutuality and promote credible commitments in governance. My most recent book, Privatizing the Polity, was published by SUNY Press (2015) and was favorably reviewed in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. I have also co-authored two books on nonstandard compensation systems published by Lexington Press, Gratuity: A Contextual Understanding of Tipping Norms from the Perspective of Tipped Employees, and Getting a Cut: A Contextual Understanding of Commission Systems. Additionally, I have published research on governance and social policy in journals including the Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, Journal of Public Management and Social Policy, Justice Research and Policy, Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, Journal of Public Affairs Education, Policy Studies Journal, Social Science Quarterly, American Politics Research, and Public Personnel Management.Currently, I am researching Unconditional Basic Income (UBI). The devolved and privatized network of welfare provision offers a suitable, flexible structure for a grant-based program in which nonprofit organizations may assist individuals in submittting automated grants identifying annual objectives defined by the individual and may include child care goals, elder care goals, creative works, etc. Therefore, people are not “beneficiaries” of the system, they are contributing something to society and fundamentally changing the nature of labor. I identify the barriers and potential strategies for addressing each barrier to enactment. Most importantly, I find that basic income schemes that are not universal and unconditional are likely to reproduce race-gendered patterns of oppression.  I am also working on a constellation of projects on democratic policing in the US. The first study is a time series analysis of the police use of lethal force. This project explores the impact of mental healthcare investments across states on deadly encounters with the police and the potential for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to make policing safer for the police and the public. The second study examines the aggregate patterns of bias in the execution of lethal force across various demographic groups and geographical regions. This project includes case studies to further identify factors that may reduce the potential for bias the police use of force. The third research project on policing is an interdisciplinary study of the perspectives on policing that the police and various communities have in order to identify potential disjunctures. We expect that differences in the understandings of the challenges and complexities of policing and in expectations of the police may serve as opportutities to improve police-public relations. 

Research Interests

Public Policy

Public Administration


Class, Inequality, and Labor Politics

Gender and Politics

Health Politics and Policy

Welfare Policies

Criminal Justice Policy

Nonprofit Management

Basic Income

Countries of Interest

United States

My Research:

Holona Ochs is an Associate Professor and Graduate Director in the Political Science Department at Lehigh University. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology and master’s degree in clinical marriage and family therapy from Kansas State University and her Ph.D. in political science from the University of Kansas. She has published widely in the fields of public policy and administration, with a particular focus on the tools of social control. Her research examines the “welfarist left hand" and the "carceral right hand" of governance, with particular attention on attempts to efficiently wash one hand with the other as a part of strategies pursued by some business interests to increase inequality and subject people to escalating social controls. Her efforts in this regard are aimed at generating an understanding of the contractual arrangements that foster mutuality and promote credible commitments in governance.


Journal Articles:

(2019) “Experimental Tests for Gender Effects in a Principal-Agent Game.”, Journal of Behavioral Public Administration

Traditional arguments against women as leaders suggest that women would not be extended the trust necessary for leadership and/or that women undermine their own bargaining position by extending too much trust to others. We examine data from a laboratory test in which pairs of subjects are given the task of negotiating a wage-labor agreement. We first derive the optimal contract offer for principals and response by agents. We find that men and women do not reach different bargaining outcomes. We also find that women in authority are perceived as more trustworthy than men with authority, and women are no more or less trusting than men of their superiors or subordinates. The perceived trust is not rooted in differential wage terms but is based on the negotiation setting. Thus, women are likely to be extended the trust necessary to lead and are not likely to produce outcomes that are significantly different from men.

(2013) “Representative Bureaucracy: The Politics of Access to Policy-Making Positions in the Federal Executive Service.”, Public Personnel Management

Does the bureaucracy represent the interests of the public or react to the partisan and ideological demands of political principals? This study uses data from the federal workforce reports and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Central Personnel Data File to demonstrate that partisanship and ideology influence the demographic composition of the federal senior executives. The analysis indicates that fluctuation between administrations is largely attributed to presidents nominating and appointing individuals who share similar ideological views. The analysis also suggests that political control by ideologically driven principals has the potential to perpetuate divisiveness over polarizing issues. The partisan and ideological influences that continue to influence access to policy-making positions contribute to the perpetuation of patterned disparities in the representation of interests and undermine government performance.

(2012) “Philanthropic Social Ventures: A Framework and Profile of the Emerging Field.”, Journal of Public Management and Social Policy

The capacity to differentiate a public and direct the corresponding interest has tremendous potential to affect the opportunities available and shape the access to those opportunities. Shifts in influence and sector boundaries between the public, private, and nonprofit sector continue to be a source of tension over the legitimacy of collective, private, and voluntary action in matters described as the “public interest” in the United States. This paper outlines a framework for understanding venture philanthropy in the United States. I provide a profile of the characteristics of philanthropic social ventures that have their base of operations in the United States and describe the legal environment in which they operate. This paper concludes with a discussion of the opportunities, challenges, dilemmas, and implications of this “new” philanthropy and offers some directions for future research.

(2011) “The Politics of Inclusion: Black Political Incorporation and the Incidence of Lethal Force.”, Journal of Ethnicity and Criminal Justice

Does black political incorporation influence democratic policing? Does representation by black elected officials benefit the public broadly? This study utilizes data from thirty of the sixty largest U.S. cities from 1994 to 2004. The random effects negative binomial regressions for panel data show that the political incorporation of black elected officials significantly reduces the likelihood of the incidence of lethal force over time. This study confirms that the incorporation of black citizens in government and politics contributes to democratic policing by reducing enforcement costs and increasing legitimacy.

(2009) “Public Participation in Policing: The Impact of Citizen Oversight on the Incidence of Lethal Force Over Time in the Largest U.S. Cities.”, Justice Research and Policy

Does public participation through citizen review boards result in more responsible policing or does public oversight in this form amount to political “interference” resisted by the police? How do the various models of reactive external review impact police use of lethal force in a democratic society? In this article, I argue that citizen participation has the potential to serve the public and the police well when adequately designed and that reactive approaches to external review of the police may not have the intended effect on the incidence of lethal force over time. Specifically, the random effects negative binomial regression reveals that the process audit model of citizen review increases the incidence of lethal force. This study highlights the need for future investigations that focus on the few proactive approaches to citizen review in which the patterns and trends in policies, supervision, and training may offer more lucrative opportunities for participation that generates innovative problem-solving. Future study is also needed to determine the requisite circumstances for fostering mutually beneficial monitoring. The setting for this study on the long-run monitoring role of citizen review is a sample of 30 of the largest U.S. cities from 1994 to 2004.

(2007) "Enhancing Credibility in the Classroom: Insights from the Rhetorical and Strategic Study of Credibility.", Journal of Public Affairs Education

How can educators establish credibility in the classroom? We argue that an educator seeking to establish credibility in the classroom can look to the insights from the communications studies literature and the strategic games literature. Specifically, this assessment reveals the linkage between communication theory and strategic games. We demonstrate the utility of applying what we know from these firmly established traditions. We argue that instructors can alter the perception of their competence and trustworthiness through credible commitment mechanisms. We also argue that instructors who are

(2006) "‘Color Blind’ Policy in Black and White: The Racial Consequences of the Race Neutral Policy of Disenfranchisement.", Policy Studies Journal

Disenfranchisement policies were formulated with discriminatory intent in several states (Behrens, Uggen, and Manza 2003; Mauer 2001; Preuhs 2001). Does such discrimination persist? Do disenfranchisement laws disparately impact black voters? I argue that disenfranchisement policies target black citizens and impact black voters disparately compared with white voters. I show that disenfranchisement laws have a disparate impact on the black community that becomes increasingly disproportionate as disenfranchisement laws increase in severity. I find that disenfranchisement policies have a significant independent effect on voting rights in the black community and do not have a similar effect on white voters. I conclude that the ability of the black community to achieve adequate representation is substantially diminished as fewer and fewer blacks qualify for voter registration.

(2006) "Ideological Extremism and Public Participation.", Social Science Quarterly

Objectives. Does aggregate ideological extremism reduce public participation? Does participation in governance processes fall when the social environment shifts to the extreme left or the extreme right of the political spectrum? Our main hypothesis is that the aggregate ideological orientation of the social environment constrains volunteerism in social regulatory programs. Methods. We test our hypothesis using a panel tobit analysis of data from the federal Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program. Results. Our model of public participation (expressed as volunteerism) shows that participation expands when the ideological position of a state's citizens is at the extreme left or right of the political continuum. We show the differential effects of two types of aggregate ideological orientation: of citizens and their political leaders. We further find that participation is greatest in states with extremely liberal citizen ideological positions. Conclusions. These findings paint a more complex picture of the effect of extremism in the social environment on public participation measured as production volunteerism. In sum, public participation is greatest when the social environment is ideologically polarized, and social regulation is strongest when volunteerism is greatest.

(2006) "The Political Roots of Executive Clemency.", American Politics Research

It is widespread conventional wisdom that presidential pardons—the only way for offenders to remove or eliminate all disabilities that arise from a federal or military offense—are political. We move beyond this belief and assess five broad ways that federal pardons may be systematically influenced by the policy agendas present in a separated powers system. We model the aggregate dispensation of clemency appeals (requests for pardons) using Prais-Winsten regression and find that the probability of denials for executive clemency reflects the president’s own agenda and ideological position, congressional attention to criminal justice issues, and the homicide rate. In sum, both policy signals and the political processes they signify permeate the presidential pardons process.

Books Written:

(2015) Privatizing the Polity, State University of New York Press

This book presents 18 years of evidence demonstrating that welfare privatization makes it harder for people to move out of poverty in large numbers.

(2010) Getting a Cut: A Contextual Understanding of Commission Systems, Lexington Books

The perspective of those who receive commissions has been largely ignored, and much of the literature on commissions and bonuses focuses on the concerns of management without regard for the employees or much recognition that understanding the employee perspective contributes significantly to fostering a more productive work environment. Getting a Cut is based on semi-structured interviews with over 450 people between the two volumes. The diverse respondents from across the U.S. provide a people-first perspective on work within commission structures. Understanding what people think about their compensation and how they experience their work provides an understanding of management that has never been addressed. The book provides empirically-based, practical information for anyone interested in effective, professional management. The experiences of those who work for commissions teach us that commission structures interact with the dynamics of the work force and the skill of management to elicit specific behaviors from sales staff. Employers may use employee perspectives to gauge the work environment and determine how to structure of the commission system may yield the greatest gains in performance.

(2010) Gratuity: A Contextual Understanding of Tipping Norms From the Perspective of Tipped Employees, Lexington Books

Gratuity is based on interviews with 425 people in more than 50 occupational categories. The respondents from across the U.S. reflect the diversity of the population but have one thing in common: they earn tips. A tip is a price set almost entirely by a customer, less connected to demand than to social code. In the U.S., tipping remains one of our most controversial, confusing, and highly variable norms. In their own words, respondents present their perspectives regarding their compensation as well as what they like and dislike about work. Understanding what people think about tipping and how tipped employees experience their work provides an understanding of tipping norms that has never been addressed. The evidence in this study indicates that tips do not appear to increase in accordance with inequality, and tips do not alleviate the discomfort of inequality from the perspective of the tipped employee when they are given to demonstrate status over another. Tips may in some cases serve a redistributive function, but they are not consistent with regard to social status. The evidence in this study also indicates that tips are a weak signal of quality and are not likely to serve as an effective monitoring mechanism. People appear to conform to tipping norms for social and emotional rather than strictly rational reasons. Furthermore, conformity to tipping norms is likewise inconsistent across work contexts. One of the principal mechanisms for fostering conformity lies within the organizational hierarchy, and management plays a critical role. The definitive difference between those who like their job and those who do not is the experience with people, particularly management. Every person who interacts with the public encounters people who are rude or disrespectful. The critical lesson for management is that the emotional costs of these interactions can be mitigated by managers who extend trust and support to employees. The absence of trust in the workplace contributes to a work environment that imposes additional, unnecessary costs on employees and likely affects the experiences of customers.

Media Appearances:

Radio Appearances:

(2012) NPR: Academic Minute

In today’s Academic Minute, Lehigh University's Holona Ochs explores how we decide when to tip and how social factors influence the amount.

Newspaper Quotes:

(2018) The Independent

Gender pay gap affected by institutional context

(2018) McKnight's

Addressing the gender pay gap in healthcare

(2018) The Tribune

Women in negotiations

(2018) Lehigh Valley Live

Perspectives on policing in the Lehigh Valley, with implications for other rust belt regions

Blog Posts:

(2012) Sapphire Unbound

The resistance to the Violence Against Women Act in the U.S. is a strategic choice intended to divide women into protected categories and use violence to subjugate both women and people of color by separating categories of people with access to legal protections, dehumanizing those with the least power through sexual violence, and capitalizing on the rhetoric that this is a function of some rational, cost-effectiveness calculation and/or moral reasoning that is promoted as an “issue of national security”.

(2012) Sapphire Unbound

The vulnerability to violent crime that women of color face is a function of a history of oppression. The risk of violence that any one woman faces is a threat to all women.


(2018) McKnight's

Challenging gender stereotypes benefits everyone