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The comparative advantage of public ownership: evidence from U.S. electric utilities

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  • John Kwoka

Abstract

Studies of the performance effects of public vs private ownership have found mixed evidence. This paper draws on theory suggesting that public enterprise may have an advantage in producing goods and services whose quality attributes are difficult to specify a priori. Using a comprehensive data set of U.S. electric utilities to estimate cost functions, we find that while privately owned systems achieve lower costs in generation, public systems generally have an advantage in the end-user-oriented distribution function with its more non-contractible quality attributes. Other evidence on quality differences by ownership type and by enterprise size supports this distinction.

Suggested Citation

  • John Kwoka, 2005. "The comparative advantage of public ownership: evidence from U.S. electric utilities," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 38(2), pages 622-640, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:38:y:2005:i:2:p:622-640
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Christian Growitsch & Tooraj Jamasb & Michael Pollitt, 2009. "Quality of service, efficiency and scale in network industries: an analysis of European electricity distribution," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(20), pages 2555-2570.
    2. Richard Meade & Magnus Soderberg, 2017. "Welfare-Maximising Investors? – Utility Firm Performance with Heterogeneous Quality Preferences and Endogenous Ownership," Working Papers 2017-09 JEL Classificatio, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Economics.
    3. Ertürk, Mehmet & Türüt-AsIk, Serap, 2011. "Efficiency analysis of Turkish natural gas distribution companies by using data envelopment analysis method," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 1426-1438, March.
    4. repec:eee:juipol:v:48:y:2017:i:c:p:210-218 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. François Destandau & Serge Garcia, 2014. "Service quality, scale economies and ownership: an econometric analysis of water supply costs," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 46(2), pages 152-182, October.
    6. Mountain, Bruce, 2014. "Independent regulation of government-owned monopolies: An oxymoron? The case of electricity distribution in Australia," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(C), pages 188-196.
    7. Paul Nillesen & Michael Pollitt, 2011. "Ownership Unbundling in Electricity Distribution: Empirical Evidence from New Zealand," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 38(1), pages 61-93, January.
    8. Johan WILLNER & Sonja GRÖNBLOM, 2011. "Reforming a network industry: consequences for cost efficiency and welfare," Departmental Working Papers 2011-33, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    9. Matthew Ellman, 2006. "Does privatising public service provision reduce accountability?," Economics Working Papers 997, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
    10. Rainer Bartel, 2007. "Der öffentliche Sektor in der Defensive," Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft - WuG, Kammer für Arbeiter und Angestellte für Wien, Abteilung Wirtschaftswissenschaft und Statistik, vol. 33(2), pages 199-230.
    11. Yakovlev, Andrei, 2008. "State-business relations and improvement of corporate governance in Russia," BOFIT Discussion Papers 26/2008, Bank of Finland, Institute for Economies in Transition.
    12. Astrid Cullmann & Maria Nieswand & Julia Rechlitz, 2017. "Productive Efficiency and Ownership When Market Restructuring Affects Production Technologies," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1641, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    13. Caroline Stiel, 2017. "Modern Public Enterprises: Organisational Innovation and Productivity," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1713, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    14. Lehto, Eero, 2011. "Electricity prices in the Finnish retail market," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(4), pages 2179-2192, April.
    15. Fumagalli, Elena & Garrone, Paola & Grilli, Luca, 2007. "Service quality in the electricity industry: The role of privatization and managerial behavior," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 6212-6224, December.
    16. repec:ebl:ecbull:v:6:y:2008:i:37:p:1-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Ngo Long & Frank Staehler, 2008. "How does state ownership affect optimal export taxes?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 6(37), pages 1-7.
    18. Carley, Sanya, 2009. "Distributed generation: An empirical analysis of primary motivators," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(5), pages 1648-1659, May.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities

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