Jennifer Selin, Ph.D.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Phone: 573-882-8768

Address: 407B Jesse Hall

City: Columbia, MO, Missouri - 65211

Country: United States

About Me:

Jennifer L. Selin is a Kinder Institute Assistant Professor of Constitutional Democracy at the University of Missouri. Her research explores how the federal bureaucracy functions in the American separation of powers system. When unelected administrators implement policies under delegated authority, there is a legal assumption that these administrators are responsive to direction from elected officials like the President or members of Congress. But how effective are elected principals in controlling the bureaucracy? By approaching the problem of political control from the perspective of federal administrators, Selin's research illustrates that the legal structure of an executive agency's decision-making environment has important implications for political influence.  Jennifer Selin's scholarship has been published in political science, public administration, and law journals and has been utilized by the Obama and Trump Administrations, Congress, the Supreme Court, and the media. A proud graduate of Lebanon Valley College, Selin holds a J.D. from Wake Forest University and a Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University. Prior to joining academia, she practiced administrative law and specialized in federal electricity market regulation and alternative energy development, licensing, and regulation.

Research Interests

American Presidency And Executive Politics


Public Administration

Legislative Politics


Journal Articles:

(2020) The Best Laid Plans: How Administrative Burden Complicates Voting Rights Restoration Law and Policy, Missouri Law Review

Estimates suggest that, since 1997, 1.4 million citizens in 23 states have regained the right to vote as a result of legal changes to disenfranchisement policy. Yet while reforms have provided the legal opportunity for right restoration, questions remain whether such reforms result in practical changes for individuals with felony convictions. In most states, only a modest number of individuals' rights are restored because the procedures governing reenfranchisement are confusing and the burden of pursuing restoration falls on the citizen. In order to help make sense of how administration of voting registration reforms influences citizens' civil rights, I use the concept of administrative burden. I find that the context in which administrators operate and citizens ability to advocate for their civil rights have consequences for the effectiveness of any legal regime of voting rights.

(2017) Don't Sweat the Details!: Enhancing Congressional Committee Capacity Through The Use of Detailees, Legislative Studies Quarterly

In contrast to the dramatic growth in the size and influence of the executive branch over the past 40 years, congressional committee staffing levels are at an all‐time low. Faced with growing demands to produce legislation and to conduct oversight of executive branch policymaking, Congress can and does supplement its existing staff by borrowing personnel, known as detailees, from federal agencies. Using an original dataset of detailees from 1997 to 2015, we analyze the degree to which congressional committees rely on detailees to increase legislative capacity. We find that committees in the House and Senate use detailees in different ways to further both legislative and oversight initiatives.

(2016) Understanding Employee Turnover in the Public Sector: Insights from Research on Teacher Mobility, Public Administration Review

Employee turnover is a key area for public administration research, but one about which there is much still to be learned. Insights from an extensive body of research on employee turnover in a specific area of the public sector—public education—contributes to the understanding of employee mobility in public organizations more generally. The authors present a conceptual framework for understanding employee turnover that is grounded in economic theories of labor supply and demand, which have formed the foundation of many studies of teacher turnover. The main findings of this body of work are documented, noting connections to the literature on public employee turnover, lessons that can be learned, and potential new areas for empirical inquiry for scholars of turnover in the public sector.

(2015) What Makes an Agency Independent?, American Journal of Political Science

The responsiveness of government agencies to elected officials is a central question in democratic governance. A key source of variation in responsiveness is agency structure. Yet scholars often view agencies as falling into broad structural categories (e.g., cabinet departments or independent commissions) or fixate on some features of design (e.g., “for cause” protections). I develop new estimates of structural independence based on new data on 50 different structural features of 321 federal agencies in the federal executive establishment. Using a Bayesian latent variable model, I estimate independence on two dimensions: limits on the appointment of key agency decision makers and limits on political review of agency policy. I illustrate the value of this new measure by using it to examine how structure affects political influence and how agency independence can vary over time.

(2015) Political Control and the Forms of Agency Independence, George Washington Law Review

The legitimacy of the federal executive establishment’s administrative policies hinges on the ability of democratically elected officials to hold federal agencies accountable. While both the President and Congress have a variety of tools they can employ to enhance control over the bureaucracy, elected officials have chosen to insulate some agencies from politics. Courts and legal scholars have focused a lot of attention on what constitutes an “independent” agency and what consequences this should have for jurisprudence. In this Article, we explore decisions to insulate agencies from political control by examining the statutory features of 321 agencies and bureaus in the federal executive establishment. Our analysis of a broad range of statutes suggests that there is substantial and underappreciated variation in the structural characteristics that influence the accountability of federal agencies to the President and Congress. These characteristics change over time, influence administrative policy, and have implications for judicial deference to federal regulations.

(2014) Influencing the Bureaucracy: The Irony of Congressional Oversight, American Journal of Political Science

Does the president or Congress have more influence over policymaking by the bureaucracy? Despite a wealth of theoretical guidance, progress on this important question has proven elusive due to competing theoretical predictions and severe difficulties in measuring agency influence and oversight. We use a survey of federal executives to assess political influence, congressional oversight, and the policy preferences of agencies, committees, and the president on a comparable scale. Analyzing variation in political influence across and within agencies reveals that Congress is less influential relative to the White House when more committees are involved. While increasing the number of involved committees may maximize the electoral benefits for members, it may also undercut the ability of Congress as an institution to collectively respond to the actions of the presidency or the bureaucracy.

(2012) The House as a Stepping Stone to the Senate: Why Do So Few African-American House Members Run?, American Journal of Political Science

Although a commonly recognized pathway to the U.S. Senate is through the U.S. House of Representatives, only four African American House members have run for the Senate since the passage of the 17th Amendment, and none have been elected. We examine why so few African American House members run for the Senate. Using an original dataset that includes all House members in the 102nd through the 110th Congresses, we explore the decision of House members, particularly African American House members, to run for the Senate. Despite the fact that so few African American House members have run for the Senate, our results raise doubts about the existence of direct race‐based explanations. Instead, we demonstrate with mediation analysis that contextual factors linked to race, such as state population, ability to raise campaign funds, and ideological extremity, play an intervening role in the strategic decision to run. These findings have normative implications for descriptive representation.

Books Written:

(2018) Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies, Administrative Conference of the United States

In December 2018, the Administrative Conference published a second edition of the Sourcebook of United States Executive Agencies. The Administrative Conference previously undertook a project to examine the agencies and other organizational entities of the federal executive establishment, including independent agencies, and published the first edition of the Sourcebook in December 2012. The Sourcebook examines the diverse characteristics of the departments, agencies, and other organizational entities that comprise the federal executive establishment and catalogues a comprehensive set of characteristics for each entity, including structure (e.g., commission or single-head agency, internal organization), personnel (e.g., number and types of appointed positions, limitations on removal), decision-making processes and requirements, political oversight, and sources of funding. The second edition revises and supplements the first edition and accounts for developments since its initial publication by, among other things, expanding the coverage of the Sourcebook by identifying bureaus within agencies, accounting for ongoing constitutional debates about agency structure, and addressing the renewed importance of “government-wide legal mandates” in the administrative state.