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When Can Public Policy Makers Rely on Private Markets? The Effective Provision of Social Services

  • Blank, Rebecca M

The privatisation of social services is being increasingly discussed. The social services market is characterised by multiple market failures, including informational asymmetries, agency problems, externalities, and distributional concerns. Consumers may care as much or more about quality of services than about price. If quality is readily observable, the government can regulate private providers to assure standards are met. But when standards are difficult to observe or when the recipient is not the agent who makes the decisions, government ownership may be preferable. This paper categorises the market situations in which government provision of social services is likely to be most versus least attractive.

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Article provided by Royal Economic Society in its journal The Economic Journal.

Volume (Year): 110 (2000)
Issue (Month): 462 (March)
Pages: C34-49

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Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:110:y:2000:i:462:p:c34-49
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  1. Tobin, James, 1970. "On Limiting the Domain of Inequality," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 263-77, October.
  2. Andrei Shleifer, 1998. "State versus Private Ownership," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 12(4), pages 133-150, Fall.
  3. James M. Poterba, 1994. "Government Intervention in the Markets for Education and Health Care: How and Why?," NBER Working Papers 4916, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Hart, Oliver & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-61, November.
  5. David E. M. Sappington & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1987. "Privatization, Information and Incentives," NBER Working Papers 2196, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Greenwald, Bruce C & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-64, May.
  7. Henry M. Levin, 1998. "Educational vouchers: Effectiveness, choice, and costs," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 17(3), pages 373-392.
  8. Henry Hansmann, 1996. "The Changing Roles of Public, Private, and Nonprofit Enterprise in Education, Health Care, and Other Human Services," NBER Chapters, in: Individual and Social Responsibility: Child Care, Education, Medical Care, and Long-Term Care in America, pages 245-276 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Vining, Aidan R & Boardman, Anthony E, 1992. " Ownership versus Competition: Efficiency in Public Enterprise," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 73(2), pages 205-39, March.
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