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Will Privatization Reduce Costs?

  • Lindqvist, Erik


    (Dept. of Economic Statistics, Stockholm School of Economics)

I develop a model of public sector contracting based on the multitask framework by Holmström and Milgrom (1991). In this model, an agent can put effort into increasing the quality of a service or reducing costs. Being residual claimants, private owners have stronger incentives to cut costs than public employees. However, if quality cannot be perfectly measured, providing a private firm with incentives to improve quality forces the owner of the firm to bear risk. As a result, private firms will always be cheaper for low levels of quality but might be more expensive for high levels of quality. Extending the model to allow for differences in task attractiveness, I find that public firms shun unattractive tasks, whereas private firms undertake them if incentives are strong enough.

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Paper provided by Stockholm School of Economics in its series SSE/EFI Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance with number 660.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: 05 Mar 2007
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:hastef:0660
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  1. Sloan, Frank A. & Picone, Gabriel A. & Taylor, Donald H., Jr. & Chou, Shin-Yi, 2000. "Hospital Ownership and Cost and Quality of Care: Is There a Dime's Worth of Difference?," Working Papers 00-11, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  2. Andrei Shleifer, 1998. "State Versus Private Ownership," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1841, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
  3. Ohlsson, H., 1998. "Ownership and Production Costs Choosing Between Public Production and Contracting Out," Papers 1998-6, Uppsala - Working Paper Series.
  4. Oliver Hart & Sanford Grossman, 1985. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Working papers 372, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Silverman, Elaine & Skinner, Jonathan, 2004. "Medicare upcoding and hospital ownership," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 23(2), pages 369-389, March.
  6. Besley, Timothy J. & Ghatak, Maitreesh, 2004. "Competition and Incentives with Motivated Agents," CEPR Discussion Papers 4641, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Glaeser, Edward L. & Shleifer, Andrei, 2001. "Not-for-profit entrepreneurs," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(1), pages 99-115, July.
  8. Jonathan Levin & Steven Tadelis, 2007. "Contracting for Government Services: Theory and Evidence from U.S. Cities," NBER Working Papers 13350, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  10. Schmidt, Klaus M, 1996. "The Costs and Benefits of Privatization: An Incomplete Contracts Approach," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(1), pages 1-24, April.
  11. Domberger, Simon & Jensen, Paul, 1997. "Contracting Out by the Public Sector: Theory, Evidence, Prospects," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 13(4), pages 67-78, Winter.
  12. Hart, Oliver & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-61, November.
  13. Dalen, Dag Morten & Moen, Espen R & Riis, Christian, 2004. "Contract Renewal and Incentives in Public Procurement," CEPR Discussion Papers 4540, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  14. 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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