Decentralizing for Performance? A second look at Functional Reforms in the German Länder

Falk Ebinger, Philipp Richter

Publikation: Wissenschaftliche FachzeitschriftOriginalbeitrag in FachzeitschriftBegutachtung


In the last 10 years, the governments of most of the German Länder initiated administrative reforms. All of these ventures included the municipalization of substantial sets of tasks. As elsewhere, governments argue that service delivery by communes is more cost-efficient, effective and responsive. Empirical evidence to back these claims is inconsistent at best: a considerable number of case studies cast doubt on unconditionally positive appraisals. Decentralization effects seem to vary depending on the performance dimension and task considered. However, questions of generalizability arise as these findings have not yet been backed by more ‘objective’ archival data. We provide empirical evidence on decentralization effects for two different policy fields based on two studies. Thereby, the article presents alternative avenues for research on decentralization effects and matches the theoretical expectations on decentralization effects with more robust results. The analysis confirms that overly positive assertions concerning decentralization effects are only partially warranted. As previous case studies suggested, effects have to be looked at in a much more differentiated way, including starting conditions and distinguishing between the various relevant performance dimensions and policy fields.
Seiten (von - bis)291 - 314
FachzeitschriftInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2016