One of the striking characteristics in the literature on the effects of multilevel governance is that there are abundant hypotheses on the effects of the vertical allocation of authority but rigid and comparative empirical testing is relatively rare. For example, decentralization of authority is supposed to have an effect on corruption, political participation, accountability, ethnic and territorial conflict, policy innovation, government spending, democratic stability and the incidence of human rights abuse. These studies employ sophisticated measurements for the phenomena that are said to be affected by government structure, but often use crude, and rudimentary measures of regional authority.
This observation lead to the creation of the Regional Authority Index (RAI) which is a measure of the authority of regional governments in 81 democracies or quasi-democracies on an annual basis over the period 1950-2010. The dataset encompasses subnational government levels with an average population of 150,000 or more. Where appropriate, we code more than one regional tier, and code separately regions with a special autonomous statute or asymmetrical arrangements. Regional authority is measured along ten dimensions: institutional depth, policy scope, fiscal autonomy, borrowing autonomy, representation, law making, executive control, fiscal control, borrowing control, and constitutional reform. Primary sources (constitutions, legislation, statutes) are triangulated with secondary literature and consultation of country experts to achieve reliable and valid estimates. A regional data set contains annual scores for regional governments or tiers and a country data set aggregates these scores to the country level. More information on the Regional Authority Index can be found on the project's website.
Hooghe, Liesbet, Marks, Gary, Schakel, Arjan H., Chapman-Osterkatz, Sandra, Niedzwiecki, Sara, and Shair-Rosenfield, Sarah (2016) Measuring regional authority. Volume I: a postfunctionalist theory of governance. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hooghe, Liesbet, Marks, Gary and Schakel, Arjan H. (2010) The rise of regional authority: a comparative study of 42 countries, London: Routledge.
Hooghe, Liesbet, Marks, Gary and Schakel Arjan H. (2008) "Regional authority in 42 democracies, 1950-2006: A measure and five hypotheses," Regional and Federal Studies, 18, 2-3: 111-302.
Multilevel Policy Provision
Multilevel Policy Provision
In the public economy and fiscal federalism literature there is a strong normative, theoretical claim which is summarized by the decentralization theorem. This hypothesis states that optimal policy provision balances two factors. First, policy provision is a task for the government at the territorial scale where externalities are internalized and scale effects are reaped. Second, policies are also optimally provided when governments differentiate provision according to local preferences. In other words, governments provide policies optimally when functional characteristics of policies are balanced with heterogeneous preferences.
This seems like a straightforward recommendation but in practice it is very difficult to pinpoint functional characteristics of policies. My approach to this measurement issue was to design an expert survey in which scholars with expertise in public administration, fiscal federalism and federalism were asked to indicate at which territorial scale a particular policy should be provided when one only has to consider functional characteristics of policies. The expert survey provide us with a functional benchmark against which we can observe in how far a particular country differentiates from the functional optimal allocation of policy provision tasks. The comparison between the recommendations derived from the expert survey and the actual allocation of policy competences across tiers of government reveals where heterogeneous preferences push policy upwards or pulls policy downward.
Multilevel Policy Provision Dataset
The policy provision dataset details for 34 policies which government tier (national, regional or local) is responsible for providing a policy. The data is presented for 28 three-tier and 11 two-tier countries seperately. Please consult my article in Acta Politica for more information (e.g. sources, measurement, analysis).
Schakel, Arjan H. (2009) "Explaining policy allocation over governmental tiers by identity and functionality," Acta Politica, 44, 4: 385-409.
Expert Survey on Externalities and Scale Effects
The expert survey measures two functional characteristics of policies. We have asked 36 scholars with an expertise in public administration, fiscal federalism, public finance, and local government to indicate which jurisdiction should provide a policy when one has only to consider economic externalities and scale effects. Economic externalities are positive or negative economic effects of a policy for individuals in other jurisdictions.
Efficient policy should encompass the people affected by the policy. For example, defense policy protects all those who live in a country, while street cleaning affects only those in a particular locality. Scale economies refer to the decreased cost of policy provision per unit as the scale of provision increases. Efficient policy should reap the available economies of scale for providing a policy. Defense policy is most efficient when a single army deters threats to all those who live in a country, while street cleaning can be efficiently organized at a local level. We asked the experts to indicate the functional optimal allocation of policy provision taks across government tiers for 34 policies. The experts could choose among five jurisdictions and were allowed to choose one or all jurisdictions. Please consult my article in Governance for more information (e.g. reliability, structural error, validity).
This is the original expert survey on externalities and scale effects which was sent to the experts.
Schakel, Arjan H. (2010) "Explaining regional and local government: an empirical test of the decentralization theorem," Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration and Institutions, 23, 2: 331-355.