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Decentralization and Access to Social Services in Colombia

  • Jean-Paul Faguet


  • Fabio Sánchez


A central claim in favor of decentralization is that it will improve access to public services, but few studies examine this question empirically. This paper explores the effects of decentralization on access to health and education in Colombia. We benefit from an original database that includes over 95% of Colombian municipalities. Our results show that decentralization improved enrollment rates in public schools and access of the poor to public health services. In both sectors, improving access was driven by the financial contributions of local governments. Our theoretical findings imply that local governments with better information about local preferences will concentrate their resources in the areas their voters care about most. The combination of empirical and theoretical results implies that decentralization provides local officials with the information and incentives they need to allocate resources in a manner responsive to voters´ needs, and improve the quality of expenditures so as to maximize their impact. The end result is greater usage of local services by citizens.

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Paper provided by UNIVERSIDAD DE LOS ANDES-CEDE in its series DOCUMENTOS CEDE with number 005401.

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Length: 32
Date of creation: 12 Feb 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:col:000089:005401
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  1. Rodden, Jonathan, 2003. "Reviving Leviathan: Fiscal Federalism and the Growth of Government," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 57(04), pages 695-729, September.
  2. Iwan Barankay & Ben Lockwood, 2005. "Decentralization and the Productive Efficiency of Government: Evidence from Swiss Cantons," Economics Discussion Papers 597, University of Essex, Department of Economics.
  3. Wu, Alfred M. & Lin, Mi, 2010. "Determinants of government size: Evidence from China," MPRA Paper 27089, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  4. 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.
  5. Damon Clark, 2009. "The Performance and Competitive Effects of School Autonomy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 117(4), pages 745-783, 08.
  6. Jean-Paul Faguet & Fabio Sanchez, 2006. "Decentralization’S Effects On Educational Outcomes In Bolivia And Colombia," STICERD - Development Economics Papers - From 2008 this series has been superseded by Economic Organisation and Public Policy Discussion Papers 47, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  7. Charles M. Tiebout, 1956. "A Pure Theory of Local Expenditures," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 64, pages 416.
  8. Aurélie Cassette & Sonia Paty, 2010. "Fiscal decentralization and the size of government: a European country empirical analysis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 143(1), pages 173-189, April.
  9. Galiani, Sebastian & Gertler, Paul & Schargrodsky, Ernesto, 2008. "School decentralization: Helping the good get better, but leaving the poor behind," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2106-2120, October.
  10. Besley, Timothy & Coate, Stephen, 2003. "Centralized versus decentralized provision of local public goods: a political economy approach," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 87(12), pages 2611-2637, December.
  11. Monica Escaleras & Charles Register, 2012. "Fiscal decentralization and natural hazard risks," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 151(1), pages 165-183, April.
  12. Varian, Hal R., 1994. "Sequential contributions to public goods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(2), pages 165-186, February.
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