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Vertical Grants and Local Public Efficiency

  • Ivo Bischoff
  • Peter Bönisch
  • Peter Haug
  • A. Illy

This paper analyses the impact of vertical grants on local public sector efficiency. First, we develop a theoretical model in which the bureaucrat sets the tax price while voters choose the quantity of public services. In this model, grants reduce efficiency if voters do not misinterpret the amount of vertical grants the local bureaucrats receive. If voters suffer from fiscal illusion, i.e. overestimate the amount of grants, our model yields an ambiguous effect of grants on efficiency. Second, we use the model to launch a note of caution concerning the inference that can be drawn from the existing cross-sectional studies in this field: Taking into account vertical financial equalization systems that reduce differences in fiscal capacity, empirical studies based on cross-sectional data may yield a positive relationship between grants and efficiency even when the underlying causal effect is negative. Third, we perform an empirical analysis for the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, which has implemented such a fiscal equalization system. We find a positive relationship between grants and efficiency. Our analysis shows that a careful reassessment of existing empirical evidence with regard to this issue seems necessary.

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Paper provided by Halle Institute for Economic Research in its series IWH Discussion Papers with number 1.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
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Handle: RePEc:iwh:dispap:1-13
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  1. Geys, Benny & Heinemann, Friedrich & Kalb, Alexander, 2008. "Voter Involvement, Fiscal Autonomy and Public Sector Efficiency: Evidence from German Municipalities," ZEW Discussion Papers 08-024, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  2. Le Grand, Julian, 1975. "Fiscal Equity and Central Government Grants to Local Authorities," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 85(339), pages 531-47, September.
  3. Besley, Timothy & Case, Anne, 1995. "Incumbent Behavior: Vote-Seeking, Tax-Setting, and Yardstick Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(1), pages 25-45, March.
  4. Balaguer-Coll, Maria Teresa & Prior, Diego & Tortosa-Ausina, Emili, 2007. "On the determinants of local government performance: A two-stage nonparametric approach," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 425-451, February.
  5. Geys, Benny & Heinemann, Friedrich & Kalb, Alexander, 2007. "Local Governments in the Wake of Demographic Change: Efficiency and Economies of Scale in German Municipalities," ZEW Discussion Papers 07-036, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
  6. R. D. Banker & A. Charnes & W. W. Cooper, 1984. "Some Models for Estimating Technical and Scale Inefficiencies in Data Envelopment Analysis," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 30(9), pages 1078-1092, September.
  7. Peter M. Mitias & Geoffrey K. Turnbull, 2001. "Grant Illusion, Tax Illusion, and Local Government Spending," Public Finance Review, , vol. 29(5), pages 347-368, September.
  8. Grossman, Philip J. & Mavros, Panayiotis & Wassmer, Robert W., 1999. "Public Sector Technical Inefficiency in Large U.S. Cities," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 278-299, September.
  9. Breton, Albert & Wintrobe, Ronald, 1975. "The Equilibrium Size of a Budget-maximizing Bureau: A Note on Niskanen's Theory of Bureaucracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(1), pages 195-207, February.
  10. Moesen, Wim & van Cauwenberge, Philippe, 2000. " The Status of the Budget Constraint, Federalism and the Relative Size of Government: A Bureaucracy Approach," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 104(3-4), pages 207-24, September.
  11. Wyckoff, Paul Gary, 1990. " The Simple Analytics of Slack-Maximizing Bureaucracy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 67(1), pages 35-47, October.
  12. Simar, Leopold & Wilson, Paul W., 2007. "Estimation and inference in two-stage, semi-parametric models of production processes," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 136(1), pages 31-64, January.
  13. Alexander Kalb & Benny Geys & Friedrich Heinemann, 2012. "Value for money? German local government efficiency in a comparative perspective," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(2), pages 201-218, January.
  14. Heikki A. Loikkanen & Ilkka Susiluoto, 2005. "Cost Efficiency of Finnish Municipalities in Basic Service Provision 1994-2002," ERSA conference papers ersa05p37, European Regional Science Association.
  15. M. Teresa Balaguer-Coll & Diego Prior, 2009. "Short- and long-term evaluation of efficiency and quality. An application to Spanish municipalities," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(23), pages 2991-3002.
  16. De Borger, Bruno & Kerstens, Kristiaan, 1996. "Cost efficiency of Belgian local governments: A comparative analysis of FDH, DEA, and econometric approaches," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 145-170, April.
  17. Peter Haug, 2013. "Grant Dependence, Regulation and the Effects of Formula-based Grant Systems on German Local Governments: A Data Report for Saxony-Anhalt," IWH Discussion Papers 2, Halle Institute for Economic Research.
  18. Niskanen, William A, 1975. "Bureaucrats and Politicians," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 617-43, December.
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