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Partial Fiscal Decentralization and Public-Sector Heterogeneity: Theory and Evidence from Norway


  • Lars-Erik Borge
  • Jan K. Brueckner
  • Jorn Rattso


This paper provides an empirical test of a principal tenet of fiscal federalism: that spending discretion, when granted to localities, leads to public-sector heterogeneity, with public-good levels adjusting to suit local demands. The test is based on a simple model of partial fiscal decentralization, under which earmarking of central transfers for particular uses is eliminated, allowing funds to be spent according to local tastes. The model predicts that partial decen- tralization generates dispersion in the levels of public services as spending adjusts to local preferences. But the model also yields the more-general prediction that the characteristics of local jurisdictions should play a bigger role in determining the levels of public goods after a decentralization reform than before. Both predictions are confirmed by the paper’s empirical results, which show the effects of the 1986 Norwegian reform.

Suggested Citation

  • Lars-Erik Borge & Jan K. Brueckner & Jorn Rattso, 2012. "Partial Fiscal Decentralization and Public-Sector Heterogeneity: Theory and Evidence from Norway," CESifo Working Paper Series 3954, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_3954

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Borge, Lars-Erik & Rattso, Jorn, 1995. "Demographic shift, relative costs and the allocation of local public consumption in Norway," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 705-726, December.
    2. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416-416.
    3. Zhuravskaya, Ekaterina V., 2000. "Incentives to provide local public goods: fiscal federalism, Russian style," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 337-368, June.
    4. Mario Jametti & Marcelin Joanis, 2016. "Electoral Competition as a Determinant of Fiscal Decentralisation," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 37, pages 285-300, June.
    5. Patrick Bayer & Christopher Timmins, 2007. "Estimating Equilibrium Models Of Sorting Across Locations," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 117(518), pages 353-374, March.
    6. Paul W. Rhode & Koleman S. Strumpf, 2003. "Assessing the Importance of Tiebout Sorting: Local Heterogeneity from 1850 to 1990," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1648-1677, December.
    7. Arzaghi, Mohammad & Henderson, J. Vernon, 2005. "Why countries are fiscally decentralizing," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(7), pages 1157-1189, July.
    8. Eberts, Randall W. & Gronberg, Timothy J., 1981. "Jurisdictional homogeneity and the Tiebout hypothesis," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 10(2), pages 227-239, September.
    9. Lars-Erik Borge & Jørn Rattsø, 2002. "Spending Growth With Vertical Fiscal Imbalance: Decentralized Government Spending In Norway, 1880-1990," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(3), pages 351-373, November.
    10. Robert Schwager, 1999. "Administrative Federalism and a Central Government with Regionally Based Preferences," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 6(2), pages 165-189, May.
    11. Panizza, Ugo, 1999. "On the determinants of fiscal centralization: Theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 74(1), pages 97-139, October.
    12. 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.
    13. Hilary Sigman, 2007. "Decentralization and Environmental Quality: An International Analysis of Water Pollution," NBER Working Papers 13098, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. H. Spencer Banzhaf & Randall P. Walsh, 2008. "Do People Vote with Their Feet? An Empirical Test of Tiebout," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 843-863, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Roy Bahl & Richard M. Bird, 2014. "Decentralization and Infrastructure: Principles and Practice," International Center for Public Policy Working Paper Series, at AYSPS, GSU paper1408, International Center for Public Policy, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, Georgia State University.
    2. Andrew Feltenstein & Nour Abdul-Razzak & Jeffrey Condon & Biplab Kumar Datta, 2015. "Tax Evasion, the Provision of Public Infrastructure and Growth: A General Equilibrium Approach to Two Very Different Countries, Egypt and Mauritius," Journal of African Economies, Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), vol. 24(suppl_2), pages 43-72.
    3. Agnieszka Kopańska, 2016. "Partial decentralization and its influence on local governments’ spending policy. An analysis of spending for teachers and other resources needed for schools," Working Papers 2016-38, Faculty of Economic Sciences, University of Warsaw.
    4. Christine Fauvelle-Aymar, 2014. "The welfare state, migration, and voting rights," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(1), pages 105-120, April.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • H70 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - General


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