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Does Decentralization Reduce Government Size? A Quantitative Study of the Decentralization Hypothesis


  • Silika Prohl

    (Department of Economics, Swiss Banking Institute, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland,

  • Friedrich Schneider

    (Department of Economics, Institute of Economic Policy, Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Linz Auhof, Austria)


The ‘‘decentralization hypothesis’’ in the theory of fiscal federalism suggests that fiscal decentralization may have a dampening effect on government size, implying that government intrusion into the economy can be restricted if government responsibilities for taxes and expenditures are decentralized. We study the effect of decentralization on public sector growth for a panel of twenty-nine countries over the 1978—2003 period. The major purposes of this study are twofold. First, we examine the decentralization hypothesis using two different proxy variables of fiscal decentralization: a measure of expenditure and revenue decentralization based on government financial statistics and an index of fiscal federalism that incorporates the fiscal and administrative autonomy that constitutional and statutory law grants to subnational governments. Second, and relatedly, we also explore the hypothesis that direct democracy at the local level has a dampening effect on government growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Silika Prohl & Friedrich Schneider, 2009. "Does Decentralization Reduce Government Size? A Quantitative Study of the Decentralization Hypothesis," Public Finance Review, , vol. 37(6), pages 639-664, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:pubfin:v:37:y:2009:i:6:p:639-664

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    Cited by:

    1. Makreshanska, Suzana & Petrevski, Goran, 2016. "Fiscal decentralization and government size across Europe," MPRA Paper 82472, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Lars Feld, 2014. "James Buchanan’s theory of federalism: from fiscal equity to the ideal political order," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 231-252, September.
    3. Köppl Turyna, Monika & Pitlik, Hans, 2016. "Do equalization payments affect subnational borrowing? Evidence from regression discontinuity," MPRA Paper 73749, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    4. Davide Furceri & Agnese Sacchi & Simone Salotti, 2016. "Can Fiscal Decentralization Alleviate Government Consumption Volatility?," Open Economies Review, Springer, vol. 27(4), pages 611-636, September.
    5. Silvia GOLEM & Lena MALEŠEVIC PEROVIC, 2014. "An Empirical Analysis of the Relationship between Fiscal Decentralization and the Size of Government," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 64(1), pages 30-58, February.
    6. Jean-Paul Faguet & Fabio Sánchez, 2014. "Decentralization and access to social services in Colombia," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 160(1), pages 227-249, July.
    7. Diego Pinilla & Juan de Dios Jiménez & Roberto Montero, 2013. "Dimensión del Estado y descentralización fiscal. Elementos para el debate desde la experiencia reciente de América Latina," REVISTA DE ECONOMÍA DEL ROSARIO, UNIVERSIDAD DEL ROSARIO, June.
    8. Paolo Liberati & Agnese Sacchi, 2013. "Tax decentralization and local government size," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 157(1), pages 183-205, October.
    9. David Cantarero & Patricio Perez, 2012. "Decentralization and regional government size in Spain," Portuguese Economic Journal, Springer;Instituto Superior de Economia e Gestao, vol. 11(3), pages 211-237, December.
    10. World Bank, 2014. "Improving Basic Services for the Bottom Forty Percent : Results of the Poverty and Social Impact Assessment of Decentralized Basic Service Delivery in Ethiopia," World Bank Other Operational Studies 17838, The World Bank.
    11. Qaiser M. Khan & Jean-Paul Faguet & Christopher Gaukler & Wendmsyamregne Mekasha, 2014. "Improving Basic Services for the Bottom Forty Percent : Lessons from Ethiopia," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 20001.
    12. Jaroslaw Kantorowicz, 2014. "Judges as Fiscal Activists: Can Constitutional Review Shape Public Finance?," DANUBE: Law and Economics Review, European Association Comenius - EACO, issue 2, pages 79-104, June.
    13. Patonov Nikolay Andonov, 2013. "Searching for A Restraint on the European Leviathan," Scientific Annals of Economics and Business, De Gruyter Open, vol. 60(2), pages 1-16, December.
    14. Makreshanska, Suzana & Petrevski, Goran, 2015. "Fiscal Decentralization and Inflation in Central and Eastern Europe," MPRA Paper 77596, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 16 Mar 2017.


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