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School decentralization: Helping the good get better, but leaving the poor behind

  • Galiani, Sebastian
  • Gertler, Paul
  • Schargrodsky, Ernesto

The decentralization of public services is a major feature of institutional innovation. The main argument in support of decentralization is that it brings decisions closer to the people, thereby alleviating information asymmetries and improving accountability. However, decentralization can also degrade service provision in poor communities that lack the ability to voice and defend their preferences. In this paper, we analyze the average and distributional effects of school decentralization on educational quality in Argentina. We find that decentralization had an overall positive impact on student test scores. The decentralization gains, however, did not reach the poor. Thus, although "bringing decisions closer to the people" may help the good get better, the already disadvantaged may not receive these benefits.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 10-11 (October)
Pages: 2106-2120

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:10-11:p:2106-2120
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

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  1. Pranab Bardhan & Dilip Mookherjee, 2003. "Pro-Poor Targeting and Accountability of Local Governments in West Bengal," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-138, Boston University - Department of Economics.
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  6. Faguet, Jean-Paul, 2004. "Does decentralization increase government responsiveness to local needs?: Evidence from Bolivia," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(3-4), pages 867-893, March.
  7. Timothy Besley & Maitreesh Ghatak, 2003. "Incentives, choice and accountability in the provision of Public Services," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 36001, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
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  9. Behrman, Jere R. & King, Elizabeth M., 2001. "Household schooling behaviors and decentralization," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 20(4), pages 321-341, August.
  10. Sebastian Galiani & Ernesto Schargrodsky, 2001. "Evaluating the Impact of School Decentralization on Education Quality," Working Papers 41, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised Dec 2001.
  11. Bardhan, Pranab & Mookherjee, Dilip, 2005. "Decentralizing antipoverty program delivery in developing countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(4), pages 675-704, April.
  12. Jones, Mark P. & Sanguinetti, Pablo & Tommasi, Mariano, 2000. "Politics, institutions, and fiscal performance in a federal system: an analysis of the Argentine provinces," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 305-333, April.
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  15. Eskeland, Gunnar S. & Filmer, Deon, 2002. "Autonomy, participation, and learning in Argentine schools - findings andtheir implications for decentralization," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2766, The World Bank.
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