Vertical Grants and Local Public Efficiency
Public Finance Review,
The existing empirical literature on the impact of vertical grants on local public-sector efficiency yields mixed results. Given the fact that vertical financial equalization systems often reduce differences in fiscal capacity, we argue that empirical studies based on cross-sectional data may yield a positive relationship between grants and efficiency of public service production even when the underlying causal effect is not. We provide a simple illustrative theoretical model to show the logic of our argument and illustrate its relevance by an empirical case study for the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. We show that our main argument of an inference-disturbing effect applies to those existing studies that are more optimistic about the impact of vertical grants. Finally, we argue that it may disturb the inference drawn from studies in a number of other countries where vertical grants—intended or not—concentrate in fiscally weak municipalities.
Grant Dependence, Regulation and the Effects of Formula-based Grant Systems on German Local Governments: A Data Report for Saxony-Anhalt
Recent empirical studies have found – seemingly − efficiency-enhancing effects of vertical grants on local public service provision. The main purpose of this paper is to prepare an elaborate theoretical and empirical analysis of these contradictory results. Therefore, it investigates if certain fiscal and institutional conditions (fiscal stress, fiscal rank-preserving vertical grant systems, input- and output regulation), that might help to explain these empirical findings, are characteristic of at least some parts of the local government sector or certain regions. The German state of Saxony-Anhalt is chosen for case study purposes. The main results are: First, the local governments suffer from severe fiscal problems such as high grant dependency, low tax revenues and the prevalent inability to finance investments by own resources. Second, the output- and input-regulation density of certain mandatory municipal services (schools, childcare facilities, fire protection) is high. Finally, the most important vertical grant category for local governments, the formula-based grants (“Schlüsselzuweisungen”), can be described as mainly exogenous, unconditional block grants that in most cases preserve the relative fiscal position of the grant recipients.