Measuring Fiscal Decentralisation

Concepts and Policies

image of Measuring Fiscal Decentralisation

When trying to measure fiscal decentralisation, the OECD Network on Fiscal Relations Across Government Levels has made significant progress in the last years, especially on tax autonomy of sub-central governments. But in many respects, real-world fiscal decentralisation still escapes the measuring tools, especially when it comes to measure the spending power of sub-central governments or the various regulations attached to intergovernmental grants. This book deals with two interrelated issues. The first concerns  the various measurement of fiscal decentralization in general and their usefulness for policy analysis. The second and more specific issue concerns the taxonomy of intergovernmental grants and the  limits of the current classifications, and how policy changes to the intergovernmental grants framework may require that measurement devices be adapted.



Measuring the extent of fiscal decentralisation

An application to the United States

The goal of this chapter is to develop a taxonomy of decentralisation measures and how they are related to each other. In addition to introducing a common language for the different strands of literature, this taxonomy is instrumental for studying the outcomes of decentralisation. Using cross-state data from the United States, we show that aggregating distinct dimensions of fiscal decentralisation into a single indicator inevitably leads to a loss of information in the form of lower explanatory power. We conclude that the distinct aspects of decentralisation should enter regression analyses separately, in the most flexible functional form possible. In particular, we find that revenue autonomy is virtually orthogonal to the subnational share of revenues and expenditures, suggesting that it carries additional information. In this chapter we show also how the conventional measures of decentralisation can be modified to account for the differing dependence on external grants.


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