I am a doctoral candidate in the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences at California Institute of Technology. 

I  study how agency issues impact decision-making within political institutions and organizations. I use both formal and experimental methods to advance new substantive understandings of how and when individuals delegate authority and to highlight implications of delegations of authority to intermediary actors.   A common theme in studies of delegation is that principals (e.g., the president, voters, managers) confront a tradeoff between information transmission and control in interactions with their agents in the policymaking process (e.g., appointees, bureaucrats, politicians).  My formal work builds on this framework to explore how an agent's reputation concerns may exacerbate this tradeoff, while my experimental work explores how individuals resolve this tradeoff in practice.  

I received a B.A. in Economics and an M.A. in Political Science from the University of California, Berkeley and an M.P.P. from the Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.


Working Papers

Presidents have increasingly used political appointments to control bureaucratic policymaking, yet politicizing appointments introduces distinct agency issues with political appointees that have not been explored.  These agency issues arise precisely because political appointees may be removed by the president.  I argue that the possibility of removal affects how appointees use bureaucratic expertise, which, in turn, affects presidential appointments.  I develop a model in which the president is uncertain of an appointee’s expertise, and infers it from the allocation of decision-making authority between an appointee and bureaucrat.  I demonstrate that the threat of removal leads appointees to avoid delegations of authority to better-informed bureaucrats to appear more expert.  In equilibrium, less expert appointees more aligned with the president face greater incentives to determine policy themselves to avoid damaging their reputation. By selecting non-ally appointees the president commits to sometimes dismiss even experts which improves her control over policymaking. 

Presidents rely on their political appointees to negotiate interactions with the bureaucracy on their behalf.  Appointees often know more about their organizations than the president and, therefore, may be better positioned to generate bureaucratic support for the president’s agenda. Yet, bureaucratic cooperation may be easier for appointees to sustain the more policy reflects the views of careerists tasked with implementation.  I consider a model in which an appointee dictates a policy that a bureaucrat exerts effort to implement.  The president is uncertain of both her appointee’s management skill and the difficulty of the management problem her appointee faces. Instead, the president must infer the appointee’s skill by observing his policy choice and whether implementation was successful. In equilibrium, both talented and weak appointees may give additional policy concessions to bureaucrats to ensure bureaucratic cooperation and improve their reputation with the president. This incentive exists even when the appointee shares the president’s policy preferences. I illustrate these results by comparing State Department management under James A. Baker III and Colin Powell. The results highlight fundamental limitations of administrative tools to preserve presidential control over the bureaucracy.

An Experimental Study of Delegation, with Marina Agranov and Alexander Hirsch 

The allocation of formal decision-making authority in organizations has a powerful effect on political and economic outcomes.  We examine how individuals delegate decision-making authority to a better informed agent in an experimental setting, testing the key theoretical predictions of the canonical Holmström (1984) delegation model in the lab. While this model has been widely applied to study decision-making within firms and bureaucratic organizations, previous experimental investigations provide only limited insight into its applicability as a model of individual behavior. We develop an experimental interface that more closely approximates the information and choice environment in the model. This innovation allows a more faithful implementation of the model in the decision environment facing the subjects and, therefore, a more complete test of the model.



Gailmard, Lindsey. 2022. "Electoral Accountability and Political Competence." Journal of Theoretical Politics 34 (2): 236-261.


Division of Humanities and Social Sciences
California Institute of Technology

Pasadena, CA 91125

gailmard [at] caltech [dot] edu