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Merging county administrations: Cross-national evidence of fiscal and political effects


  • Blesse, Sebastian
  • Roesel, Felix


While many central governments amalgamate municipalities, mergers of larger county administrations are rare and hardly explored. In this paper, we assess both fiscal and political effects of county mergers in two different institutional settings: counties act autonomously as upperlevel local governments (Germany), or counties being decentralised branches of the state government (Austria). We apply difference-in-differences estimations to county merger reforms in each country. In both cases, some counties were amalgamated while others remain untouched. Austrian counties (Bezirke) and German counties (Landkreise) widely differ in terms of autonomy and institutions, but our results are strikingly similar. In both cases, we neither find evidence for cost savings nor for staff reductions. Instead, voter turnout consistently decreases in merged counties, and right-wing populists seem to gain additional support. We conclude that political costs clearly outweigh fiscal null benefits of county merger reforms - independent of the underlying institutional setting.

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  • Blesse, Sebastian & Roesel, Felix, 2018. "Merging county administrations: Cross-national evidence of fiscal and political effects," ZEW Discussion Papers 18-031, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:zewdip:18031

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    1. Roesel, Felix, 2017. "Do mergers of large local governments reduce expenditures? – Evidence from Germany using the synthetic control method," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 50(C), pages 22-36.
    2. William Duncombe & John Yinger, 2007. "Does School District Consolidation Cut Costs?," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 2(4), pages 341-375, September.
    3. Reingewertz, Yaniv, 2012. "Do municipal amalgamations work? Evidence from municipalities in Israel," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 240-251.
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    6. Lapointe, Simon & Saarimaa, Tuukka & Tukiainen, Janne, 2018. "Effects of Municipal Mergers on Voter Turnout," Working Papers 106, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    7. Blesse Sebastian & Rösel Felix, 2017. "Was bringen kommunale Gebietsreformen?: Kausale Evidenz zu Hoffnungen, Risiken und alternativen Instrumenten," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, De Gruyter, vol. 18(4), pages 307-324, November.
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    10. Brasington, David M., 1999. "Joint provision of public goods: the consolidation of school districts," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(3), pages 373-393, September.
    11. Blesse, Sebastian & Baskaran, Thushyanthan, 2016. "Do municipal mergers reduce costs? Evidence from a German federal state," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 54-74.
    12. Enid Slack & Richard M. Bird, 2013. "Merging Municipalities: Is Bigger Better?," IMFG Papers 14, University of Toronto, Institute on Municipal Finance and Governance.
    13. Harjunen, Oskari & Saarimaa, Tuukka & Tukiainen, Janne, 2017. "Political Representation and Effects of Municipal Mergers," Working Papers 98, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    14. Maarten A. Allers & J. Bieuwe Geertsema, 2016. "The Effects Of Local Government Amalgamation On Public Spending, Taxation, And Service Levels: Evidence From 15 Years Of Municipal Consolidation," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 56(4), pages 659-682, September.
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    County mergers; Local government; Expenditures; Local elections; Voter turnout;

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