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Mintrom: Policy entrepreneurs and the diffusion of innovation

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Mintrom. 1997. Policy entrepreneurs and the diffusion of innovation. American Journal of Political Science 41:738-770.


In addition to internal characteristics and diffusion (see Berry and Berry 1990), there needs to be a policy entrepreneur in a state advocating a new policy or it won't be adopted. Like Berry and Berry, Mintrom uses Event History Analysis (EHA).


Ys: Consideration (Y1) and approval (Y2) of school choice legislation from 1987-1992

X: Presence and intensity of entrepreneurial activity (based on surveys)

Controls: A whole bunch, designed to measure both internal characteristics and diffusion (following Berry and Berry).


Active policy entrepreneurs significantly increase the probability of consideration and adoption of school choice legislation (see tables 3 and 5).


  • Measurement of X may not be reliable. Mintrom used a 117 surveys (that's only a couple per state) in which he asked respondents to (1) identify who the school choice entrepreneurs were in their state and (2) explain which tactics the entrepreneurs use. Based on this survey (which had a response rate only in the 20-30% range), Mintrom calculates whether each state has a policy entrepreneur and how active the entrepreneur is. (Mintrom addresses this reliability concern on p 748).
  • Possible endogeneities:
  1. Entrepreneurs emerge when the government seems receptive
  2. By measuring entrepreneurs through surveys, there's a problem: We remember winners better than losers. Thus, people can name an entrepreneur better in a survey if the entrepreneur is more successful.