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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Blank, Rebecca M, 2000. "When Can Public Policy Makers Rely on Private Markets? The Effective Provision of Social Services," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 110(462), pages 34-49, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecj:econjl:v:110:y:2000:i:462:p:c34-49

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. David E. M. Sappington & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1987. "Privatization, information and incentives," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(4), pages 567-585.
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    10. Bruce C. Greenwald & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1986. "Externalities in Economies with Imperfect Information and Incomplete Markets," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 101(2), pages 229-264.
    11. James M. Poterba, 1996. "Government Intervention in the Markets for Education and Health Care: How and Why?," NBER Chapters,in: Individual and Social Responsibility: Child Care, Education, Medical Care, and Long-Term Care in America, pages 277-308 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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    Cited by:

    1. Felipe Barrera-Osorio & Mauricio Olivera & Carlos Ospino, 2009. "Does Society Win or Lose as a Result of Privatization? The Case of Water Sector Privatization in Colombia," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 76(304), pages 649-674, October.
    2. Argentino Pessoa, 2009. "Outsourcing And Public Sector Efficiency: How Effective Is Outsourcing In Dealing With Impure Public Goods?," FEP Working Papers 329, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.
    3. Pearson, Mark & Martin, John P., 2005. "Should We Extend the Role of Private Social Expenditure?," IZA Discussion Papers 1544, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    4. Juan F. Jimeno, "undated". "El sistema de pensiones contributivas en España: Cuestiones básicas y perspectivas en el medio plazo," Working Papers 2000-15, FEDEA.
    5. Koning, Pierre, 2012. "Contracting welfare-to-work services," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 114(3), pages 349-352.
    6. Florence Jaumotte, 2003. "Female Labour Force Participation: Past Trends and Main Determinants in OECD Countries," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 376, OECD Publishing.
    7. Ben FINE & David HALL, 2010. "Contesting neoliberalism: public sector alternatives for service delivery," Departmental Working Papers 2010-27, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Università degli Studi di Milano.
    8. Gesine Stephan, 2016. "Public or private job placement services—Are private ones more effective?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 285-285, August.
    9. Suho Bae, 2010. "Public Versus Private Delivery Of Municipal Solid Waste Services: The Case Of North Carolina," Contemporary Economic Policy, Western Economic Association International, vol. 28(3), pages 414-428, July.
    10. Florence Jaumotte, 2005. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail : Évidence empirique sur le rôle des politiques économiques et autres déterminants dans les pays de l'OCDE," Revue économique de l'OCDE, Éditions OCDE, vol. 2003(2), pages 57-123.
    11. Gulati, Namrata & Ray, Tridip, 2016. "Inequality, neighbourhoods and welfare of the poor," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 122(C), pages 214-228.
    12. Pugno, Maurizio, 2006. "The service paradox and endogenous economic growth," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 17(1), pages 99-115, January.
    13. Bhattacharya, Sukanta & Saha, Sarani & Banerjee, Sarmila, 2016. "Income inequality and the quality of public services: A developing country perspective," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 1-17.
    14. Mauricio Olivera & Felipe Barrera, 2007. "La sociedad gana o pierde como resultado de la privatizacion? El caso de Colombia," Research Department Publications 3231, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    15. Blank, Rebecca M., 2002. "Can equity and efficiency complement each other?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 451-468, September.
    16. Juan F. Jimeno, "undated". "Incentivos y desigualdad en el sistema español de pensiones contributivas de jubilación," Working Papers 2002-13, FEDEA.
    17. Bernardino Benito & José Solana & María-Rocío Moreno, 2014. "Explaining efficiency in municipal services providers," Journal of Productivity Analysis, Springer, vol. 42(3), pages 225-239, December.
    18. Pierre Koning & C.J. Heinrich, 2009. "Cream-skimming, parking and other intended and unintended effects of performance-based contracting in social welfare services," CPB Discussion Paper 134, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
    19. Thomas Leoni, 2015. "Welfare state adjustment to new social risks in the post-crisis scenario. A review with focus on the social investment perspective," WWWforEurope Working Papers series 89, WWWforEurope.
    20. Argentino Pessoa, 2008. "Educational Reform in Developing Countries: Private Involvement and Partnerships," FEP Working Papers 284, Universidade do Porto, Faculdade de Economia do Porto.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • I00 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - General - - - General


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