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Contracting for Government Services: Theory and Evidence from U.S. Cities

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  • Jonathan Levin
  • Steven Tadelis

Abstract

Local governments can provide services with their own employees or by contracting with private or public sector providers. We develop a model of this "make-or-buy" choice that highlights the trade-off between productive efficiency and the costs of contract administration. We construct a dataset of service provision choices by U.S. cities and identify a range of service and city characteristics as significant determinants of contracting decisions. Our analysis suggests an important role for economic efficiency concerns, as well as politics, in contracting for government services.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:13350 Note: IO PE
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 1997. "Privatization in the United States," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(3), pages 447-471, Autumn.
    2. Bajari, Patrick & Tadelis, Steven, 2001. "Incentives versus Transaction Costs: A Theory of Procurement Contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 32(3), pages 387-407, Autumn.
    3. Steven Tadelis, 2002. "Complexity, Flexibility, and the Make-or-Buy Decision," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(2), pages 433-437, May.
    4. Mildred Warner & Robert Hebdon, 2001. "Local Government Restructuring: Privatization and Its Alternatives," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 20(2), pages 315-336.
    5. Boycko, Maxim & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1996. "A Theory of Privatisation," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 106(435), pages 309-319, March.
    6. Barzel, Yoram, 1982. "Measurement Cost and the Organization of Markets," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 27-48, April.
    7. repec:hrv:faseco:30727606 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Masten, Scott E, 1984. "The Organization of Production: Evidence from the Aerospace Industry," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 27(2), pages 403-417, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D73 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Bureaucracy; Administrative Processes in Public Organizations; Corruption
    • H11 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - Structure and Scope of Government
    • L33 - Industrial Organization - - Nonprofit Organizations and Public Enterprise - - - Comparison of Public and Private Enterprise and Nonprofit Institutions; Privatization; Contracting Out

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