Measuring Local Autonomy

  • Andreas Ladner
  • Nicolas Keuffer
  • Harald Baldersheim
  • Nikos Hlepas
  • Pawel Swianiewicz
  • Kristof Steyvers
  • Carmen Navarro
Part of the Governance and Public Management book series (GPM)


This chapter develops a comprehensive and empirically applicable concept to measure the autonomy of local government in the 39 European countries covered. To this end, we first discuss already existing measurements and typologies of local autonomy and decentralisation. We argue that existing data on fiscal decentralisation only tells part of the story and does not capture the role and discretion of local government in an adequate manner. Subsequently, we present our methodology to measure local autonomy, the coding scheme we developed to code the different countries as well as the different variables used. The chapter contains also information about the organisation of the whole project, the different experts involved and the method applied to gather comparative data.


Coding scheme Systems of local government Municipalities 11 variables Decentralisation Expert survey Codebook 


  1. AER (Assembly of European Regions). (2009). From Subsidiarity to Success: The Impact of Decentralisation on Economic Growth. Strasbourg: AER.Google Scholar
  2. Akai, N. (2013). The Role of Decentralisation Indicators in Empirical Research. In J. Kim, J. Lotz, & H. Blöchliger (Eds.), Measuring Fiscal Decentralisation. Concepts and Policies (pp. 61–70). Paris: OECD and Korea Institute of Public Finance.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arzaghi, M., & Henderson, J. V. (2005). Why Countries Are Fiscally Decentralizing. Journal of Public Economics, 89(7), 1157–1189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bell, M. E., Ebel, R. D., Kaiser, K., & Rojchaichainthorn, J. (2006). Measuring Fiscal Decentralization: A New Perspective (Draft for Discussion). Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  5. Bergvall, D., Charbit, C., Kraan, D.-J., & Merk, O. (2006). Intergovernmental Transfers and Decentralised Public Spending. OECD Journal on Budgeting, 5(4), 112–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blöchliger, H. (2013). Measuring Decentralisation: The OECD Fiscal Decentralisation Database. In J. Kim, J. Lotz, & H. Blöchliger (Eds.), Measuring Fiscal Decentralisation. Concepts and Policies (pp. 15–35). Paris: OECD and Korea Institute of Public Finance.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blöchliger, H., & King, D. (2007). Less Than You Thought: The Fiscal Autonomy of Sub-central Governments. OECD Economic Studies, 2006(2), 155–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blöchliger, H., & King, D. (2006). Fiscal Autonomy of Sub-Central Governments, OECD Working papers on Fiscal Federalism, 2. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  9. Brancati, D. (2006). Decentralization: Fueling the Fire or Dampening the Flames of Ethnic Conflict and Secessionism. International Organization, 60(3), 651–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Council of Europe. (1985). European Charter of Local Self-Government (n°122). Retrieved from (Consulted in 2018).
  11. Dardanelli, P., Kincaid, J., Fenna, A., Kaiser, A., Lecours, A., & Singh, A. K. (2016). Conceptualising, Measuring, and Theorising Dynamic De/Centralisation in Federations. Paper to Be Presented at the 24th IPSA World Congress, Poznań, Poland.Google Scholar
  12. Denters, S. A. H., & Rose, L. E. (2005). Comparing Local Governance: Trends and Developments. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dreier, V. (1994). Kommunalpolitik in Europa – Einheit durch Vielheit? In H.-G. Wehling (Ed.), Kommunalpolitik in Europa (pp. 258–263). Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.Google Scholar
  14. Do Vale, H. F. (2015). Comparing and Measuring Subnational Autonomy Across Three Continents. Lex Localis, 13(3), 741–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ebel, R. D., & Yilmaz, S. (2002). On the Measurement and Impact of Fiscal Decentralization (Vol. 2809). Washington, DC: The World Bank Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Falleti, T. G. (2005). A Sequential Theory of Decentralization: Latin American Cases in Comparative Perspective. American Political Science Review, 99(03), 327–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Furniss, N. (1974). The Practical Significance of Decentralization. The Journal of Politics, 36(4), 958–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Goldsmith, M. (1995). Autonomy and City Limits. In D. Judge, G. Stocker, & H. Wolman (Eds.), Theories of Urban Politics (pp. 228–252). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Goldsmith, M., & Page, E. C. (2010a). Changing Government Relations in Europe: From Localism to Intergovernmentalism. London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Goldsmith, M., & Page, E. C. (2010b). Conclusions. In M. Goldsmith & E. C. Page (Eds.), Changing Government Relations in Europe: From Localism to Intergovernmentalism (pp. 247–260). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hesse, J. J., & Sharpe, L. J. (1991). Local Government in International Perspective: Some Comparative Observations. In J. Jens (Ed.), Local Government and Urban Affairs in International Perspective (pp. 603–621). Baden-Baden: Nomos.Google Scholar
  22. Hooghe, L., & Marks, G. (2001). Multi-level Governance and European Integration. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  23. Hooghe, L., Marks, G.-N., & Schakel, A. (2010). The Rise of Regional Authority: A Comparative Study of 42 Democracies (1950–2006). London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hooghe, L., Marks, G., Schakel, A. H., Osterkatz, S. C., Niedzwiecki, S., & Shair-Rosenfield, S. (2016). Measuring Regional Authority: A Postfunctionalist Theory of Governance (Vol. 1). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ivanyna, M., & Shah, A. (2014). How Close Is Your Government to Its People? Worldwide Indicators on Localization and Decentralization. Economics: The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, 2013(38), 1–62.Google Scholar
  26. Kim, J. (2013). Measurement of Decentralisation: How Should We Categorise Tax Sharing? In J. Kim, J. Lotz, & H. Blöchliger (Eds.), Measuring Fiscal Decentralisation. Concepts and Policies (pp. 47–60). Paris: OECD and Korea Institute of Public Finance.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kuhlmann, S., & Wollmann, H. (2014). Introduction to Comparative Public Administration: Administrative Systems and Reforms in Europe. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  28. Kuhlmann, S., & Bouckaert, G. (Eds.). (2016). Local Public Sector Reforms in Times of Crisis, National Trajectories and International Comparisons. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Ladner, A., Keuffer, N., & Baldersheim, H. (2016a). Measuring Local Autonomy in 39 Countries (1990–2014). Regional & Federal Studies, 26(3), 321–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ladner A., Keuffer N., & Baldersheim, H. (2016b). Self-Rule Index for Local Authorities (Release 1.0) (Final Report). Publications Office of the European Union.Google Scholar
  31. Lane, J. E., & Ersson, S. (1999). Politics and Society in Western Europe. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lijphart, A. (1999). Patterns of Democracy: Government Forms and Performance in Thirty-Six Countries. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Loughlin, M. (2001). The Constitutional Status of Local Government. In L. Pratchett & D. Wilson (Eds.), Local Democracy and Local Government (pp. 38–62). London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  34. Marcou, G. (2010). Local Competences in Europe. Situation in 2007. Study of the European Committee on Local and Regional Democracy (CDLR). Strasbourg: Council of Europe.Google Scholar
  35. Moreno, A.-M. (2012). Local Government in the Member States of the European Union: A Comparative Legal Perspective. Madrid: Instituto Nacional de Administración Publica.Google Scholar
  36. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). (1997). Managing Across Levels of Local Government. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  37. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). (1999). Taxing Powers of State and Local Government, OECD Tax Policy Studies, 1 (pp. 1–87). Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  38. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), & KIPF (Korean Institute of Public Finance). (2016). Fiscal Federalism 2016: Making Decentralisation Work. Paris: OECD Publishing.Google Scholar
  39. Page, E. C., & Goldsmith, M. (1987). Central and Local Government Relations: A Comparative Analysis of West European Unitary States. London: SAGE Publications.Google Scholar
  40. Page, E. (1991). Localism and Centralism in Europe: The Political and Legal Bases of Local Self-government. Oxford: Oxford University Press on Demand.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rodden, J. (2004). Comparative Federalism and Decentralization: On Meaning and Measurement. Comparative Politics, 36(4), 481–500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Schakel, A. H. (2008). Validation of the Regional Authority Index. Regional & Federal Studies, 18(2–3), 143–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Schneider, A. (2003). Decentralization: Conceptualization and Measurement. Studies in Comparative International Development, 38(3), 32–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sellers, J. M., & Lidström, A. (2007). Decentralization, Local Government, and the Welfare State. Governance, 20(4), 609–632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Shah, A., & Shah, S. (2006). The New Vision of Local Governance and the Evolving Roles of Local Governments. In A. Shah (Ed.), Local Governance in Developing Countries (pp. 1–46). Washington, DC: The World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  46. Sharpe, L. J. (1988). The Growth and Decentralisation of the Modern Democratic State. European Journal of Political Research, 16, 365–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Steenbergen, M. R., & Marks, G. (2007). Evaluating Expert Judgments. European Journal of Political Research, 46(3), 347–366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Stephens, G. R. (1974). State Centralization and the Erosion of Local Autonomy. The Journal of Politics, 36(1), 44–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Treisman, D. (2002). Defining and Measuring Decentralization: A Global Perspective (Unpublished manuscript).Google Scholar
  50. UCLG. (2008). Decentralization and Local Democracy in the World: First Global Report by United Cities and Local Governments 2008. Washington, DC: World Bank Publications.Google Scholar
  51. Van de Walle, S., Baker, K., & Skelcher, C. (2009). Citizen Support for Increasing the Responsibilities of Local Government in European Countries: A Comparative Analysis. Working Paper, 1–17.Google Scholar
  52. Verhoest, K., Peters, B. G., Bouckaert, G., & Verschuere, B. (2004). The Study of Organisational Autonomy: A Conceptual Review. Public Administration and Development, 24(2), 101–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Verhoest, K., Roness, P., Verschuere, B., Rubecksen, K., & MacCarthaigh, M. (2010). Autonomy and Control of State Agencies: Comparing States and Agencies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Vetter, A. (2007). Local Politics: A Resource for Democracy in Western Europe?: Local Autonomy, Local Integrative Capacity, and Citizens’ Attitudes Toward Politics (Vol. 3). Lanham: Lexington Books.Google Scholar
  55. Vetter, A., Klimovský, D., Denters, B., & Kersting, N. (2016). Giving Citizens More Say in Local Government: Comparative Analyses of Change Across Europe in Times of Crisis. In Local Public Sector Reforms in Times of Crisis (pp. 273–286). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Woldendorp, J., Keman, H., & Budge, I. (2000). Party Government in 28 Democracies (1945–1998): Composition – Duration – Personnel. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Wolman, H. (1990). Decentralization: What It Is and Why We Should Care. In R. J. Bennet (Ed.), Decentralization, Local Governments, and Markets: Towards a Post-Welfare Agenda (pp. 29–42). Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  58. Wolman, H. (2008). Comparing Local Government Systems Across Countries: Conceptual and Methodological Challenges to Building a Field of Comparative Local Government Studies. Environment and Planning: Government and Policy, 26(1), 87–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Wolman, H., McManmon, R., Bell, M., & Brunori, D. (2010). Comparing Local Government Autonomy Across States. In The Property Tax and Local Autonomy (pp. 69–114). Cambridge: The Lincoln Institute.Google Scholar
  60. Woller, G. M., & Phillips, K. (1998). Fiscal Decentralisation and IDC Economic Growth: An Empirical Investigation. The Journal of Development Studies, 4, 139–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andreas Ladner
    • 1
  • Nicolas Keuffer
    • 1
  • Harald Baldersheim
    • 2
  • Nikos Hlepas
    • 3
  • Pawel Swianiewicz
    • 4
  • Kristof Steyvers
    • 5
  • Carmen Navarro
    • 6
  1. 1.IDHEAPUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  3. 3.National and Kapodistrian University of AthensAthensGreece
  4. 4.Department of Local Development and Policy, Faculty of Geography and Regional StudiesUniversity of WarsawWarszawaPoland
  5. 5.Department of Political ScienceGhent UniversityGhentBelgium
  6. 6.Department of Political ScienceUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations