Decentralization and the Welfare State: What Do Citizens Perceive?
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Trust in public institutions and public policies are generally perceived as a precondition for economic recovery in times of recession. Recent empirical evidence tends to find a positive link between decentralization and trust. But our knowledge about whether decentralization—through increased trust—improves the perception of the delivery and effectiveness of public policies is still limited. In this paper we estimate the impact of fiscal and political decentralization on the perception of the state of the education system and of health services, by using the 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008 waves of the European social survey. The analysis of the views of 160,000 individuals in 31 European countries indicates that while the effect of fiscal decentralization on the perception of the state of the health and education system is unambiguously positive, political decentralization affects citizen’s satisfaction with education and health delivery in different ways. The influence of political decentralization, however, is highly contingent on whether we consider the capacity of the local or regional government to exercise authority over its citizens (self-rule) or to influence policy at the national level (shared-rule).
KeywordsEducation Health Satisfaction Fiscal and political decentralization Europe
Luis Diaz-Serrano acknowledges the financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation (Grant # ECO2010-20829). Andrés Rodríguez-Pose is grateful for the support of the European Research Council under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013)/ERC grant agreement nº 269868. The usual disclaimer applies.
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