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Social Services Viewed Through New Lenses: Agency Problems in Education and Health in Latin America

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  • William D. Savedoff

Abstract

Latin America spends large amounts of resources on social services, yet its life expectancy and education levels are low compared to other regions with similar levels of income. A key reason is the inherent difficulty of making social services produce efficiently in reponse to demands and needs. This article shows how improving the organization of these service systems can make a significant difference in health conditions and student learning. A general framework applying the lessons of theories of the firm to the particularities of social services is developed, followed by a summary of case studies which assessed the impact of organization on performance in education (in Brazil, Venezuela and Chile), and in health (in Uruguay, Chile and the Dominican Republic). The paper shows that the relationships and rules followed by governments, service providers, and consumers can mean the difference between success and failure. It also describes a wealth of approaches, some of them with long histories, that point toward better ways of organizing social services and ultimately improving health and education in the region. This document is the first chapter of the Research Network book entitled "La organizacion marca la diferencia: Educación y salud en América Latina. "

Suggested Citation

  • William D. Savedoff, 1997. "Social Services Viewed Through New Lenses: Agency Problems in Education and Health in Latin America," Research Department Publications 3017, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
  • Handle: RePEc:idb:wpaper:3017
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    File URL: http://www.iadb.org/research/pub_hits.cfm?pub_id=R-318&pub_file_name=pubR-318.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. de Groot, Hans, 1988. "Decentralization decisions in bureaucracies as a principal-agent problem," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 323-337, August.
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    3. Cox, Donald & Jimenez, Emmanuel, 1990. "The relative effectiveness of private and public schools : Evidence from two developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-2), pages 99-121, November.
    4. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 1996. "How Teachers' Unions Affect Education Production," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(3), pages 671-718.
    5. Gaynor, Martin, 1994. "Issues in the Industrial Organization of the Market for Physician Services," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 3(1), pages 211-255, Spring.
    6. Goudriaan, Rene & de Groot, Hans, 1993. "State regulation and university behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 20(3), pages 309-318, April.
    7. Spiller, Pablo T, 1990. "Politicians, Interest Groups, and Regulators: A Multiple-Principals Agency Theory of Regulation, or "Let Them Be Bribed."," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 65-101, April.
    8. Randall P. Ellis & Thomas G. McGuire, 1993. "Supply-Side and Demand-Side Cost Sharing in Health Care," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 7(4), pages 135-151, Fall.
    9. Cremer, Jaques & Estache, Antonio & Seabright, Paul & DEC, 1994. "The decentralization of public services : lessons from the theory of the firm," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1345, The World Bank.
    10. Hoenack, Stephen A., 1994. "Economics, organizations, and learning: Research directions for the economics of education," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 147-162, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Mariano Tommasi & Silvana Tenreyro, 2001. "Comments on Dani Rodrik's "Why Is There So Much Economic Insecurity in Latin America?"," Working Papers 28, Universidad de San Andres, Departamento de Economia, revised Mar 2001.
    2. Alejandra Mizala & Pilar Romaguera, 2003. "El Sistema Nacional de Evaluación del Desempeño Docente (SNED) en Chile," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 9150, Inter-American Development Bank.
    3. Alejandra Mizala & Pablo González & Pilar Romaguera & Andrea Guzman, 2000. "Los maestros en Chile: Carreras e Incentivos," Research Department Publications 3102, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    4. Alejandra Mizala & Pilar Romaguera, 2003. "Rendimiento Escolar y Premios por Desempeño. La Experiencia Latinoamericana (Scholastic performance and performance awards)," Documentos de Trabajo 157, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
    5. Alejandra Mizala & Pilar Romaguera, 2003. "Desafíos metodológicos de los Sistemas de Evaluación e Incentivos en Educación. El caso del SNED en Chile (Methodological challenges for evaluation and incentive systems in education. The case of SNED," Documentos de Trabajo 159, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.

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