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The Local Autonomy Index (LAI)

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In this chapter we attempt to create an index of local autonomy. Ideally, such an index includes all the different aspects of local autonomy discussed in the literature and combines them according to their importance. The chapter emphasises the choices made while constructing the index and suggests different ways to test the results. Given the multidimensionality of local autonomy, we argue that the local autonomy index (LAI) has a formative character. We first combine the original standardised 11 variables to 7 theoretically and empirically meaningful dimensions of local autonomy: that is, legal autonomy, political discretion, policy scope, financial autonomy, organisational autonomy, access and non-interference. Favouring a functional and economic approach, we argue that particular weight should be given to political discretion and financial autonomy. Together with legal autonomy, we claim that these three dimensions form the cornerstones of local autonomy. The overall index simply aggregates the seven weighted dimensions. The results are presented as mean values for the five five-year periods between 1990 and 2014 as well as country rankings and country-specific patterns of local autonomy.


  • Local autonomy index (LAI)
  • Construction of an indicator
  • Dimensionality
  • Content validity
  • Convergent validity
  • Cornerstones of local autonomy

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-3-319-95642-8_9
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  1. 1.

    For such the simple construction of a measurement of local autonomy, see Ladner et al. (2016).

  2. 2.

    This can simply be done by dividing the values through the highest possible value of the old scale and multiplying it by 100.

  3. 3.

    By transforming the scales reaching from 0 to 3 or 0 to 4 to a scale reaching from 0 to 100, we only seemingly inflate the differences within the scores, the relations between the different scores, however, remain unchanged.

  4. 4.

    Albania, Latvia, Malta, Romania and Ukraine were not independent in 1990. The data for these countries starts in 1991, 1992 or 1993. For the other 34 countries, observations for 25 years (1990–2014) are taken into account.

  5. 5.

    An alternative method to test whether there are some possibilities to combine different variables would be a factor analysis with the 11 initial variables measured. For this strategy, see our report to the European Commission (Ladner et al. 2015).


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Table 9.5 Correlations between the seven dimensions and the LAI and other measures of decentralisation
Fig. 9.9
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Patterns of local autonomy (2010–2014 means). (Note: European mean is in orange)

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Ladner, A. et al. (2019). The Local Autonomy Index (LAI). In: Patterns of Local Autonomy in Europe. Governance and Public Management. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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