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Measuring the efficiency of public services: the limits of analysis

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  • Peter C. Smith
  • Andrew Street

Abstract

Policy makers are increasingly seeking to develop overall measures of the effi-ciency of public service organizations. For that, the use of 'off-the-shelf' statistical tools such as data envelopment analysis and stochastic frontier analysis have been advocated as tools to measure organizational efficiency. The analytical sophistication of such methods has reached an advanced stage of development. We discuss the context within which such models are deployed, their underlying assumptions and their usefulness for a regulator of public services. Four specific model building issues are discussed: the weights that are attached to public service outputs; the specification of the statistical model; the treatment of environmental influences on performance; the treatment of dynamic effects. The paper concludes with recommendations for policy makers and researchers on the development and use of efficiency measurement techniques. Copyright 2005 Royal Statistical Society.

Suggested Citation

  • Peter C. Smith & Andrew Street, 2005. "Measuring the efficiency of public services: the limits of analysis," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 168(2), pages 401-417.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:jorssa:v:168:y:2005:i:2:p:401-417
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Giuffrida, Antonio & Gravelle, Hugh & Sutton, Matthew, 2000. "Efficiency and administrative costs in primary care," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(6), pages 983-1006, November.
    2. Peter C. Smith & Nigel Rice & Roy Carr-Hill, 2001. "Capitation funding in the public sector," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 164(2), pages 217-257.
    3. Schmidt, Peter & Lin, Tsai-Fen, 1984. "Simple tests of alternative specifications in stochastic frontier models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 349-361, March.
    4. Alan Williams, 2001. "Science or marketing at WHO? A commentary on 'World Health 2000'," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 10(2), pages 93-100.
    5. Simar, L., 1991. "Estimating efficiencies from frontier models with panel data: a comparison of parametric, non-parametric and semi-parametric methods with boot strapping," CORE Discussion Papers 1991026, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
    6. Andrew Street, 2003. "How much confidence should we place in efficiency estimates?," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(11), pages 895-907.
    7. Newhouse, Joseph P., 1994. "Frontier estimation: How useful a tool for health economics?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 317-322, October.
    8. Mickael Lothgren, 2000. "Specification and estimation of stochastic multiple-output production and technical inefficiency," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 32(12), pages 1533-1540.
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