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Decentralization and access to social services in Colombia

Faguet, Jean-Paul and Sánchez, Fabio (2014) Decentralization and access to social services in Colombia. Public Choice, 160 (1-2). pp. 227-249. ISSN 0048-5829

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s11127-013-0077-7


Decentralization is meant to improve access to public services, but relatively few studies examine this question empirically. We explore the effects of decentralization on access to health and education in Colombia using an original database covering over 95 % of Colombian municipalities. We show that decentralization improved enrollment rates in public schools and access of the poor to public health services. In both sectors, improving access was driven by the financial contributions of local governments. Small increases in own-shares of spending led to surprisingly large increases in the access of the poor in both sectors. Our theoretical model implies that where local information dominates productive efficiency, elected local governments will provide services better tailored to local needs. Decentralizing such services should increase their use by the public. Together, theory and empirics imply that decentralization made the Colombian state more accountable. It provided local officials with the information and incentives they need to allocate resources in a manner responsive to voters' needs and improve the impact of public expenditures.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
J Political Science > JL Political institutions (America except United States)
J Political Science > JS Local government Municipal government
Sets: Departments > International Development
Research centres and groups > Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD)
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2013 08:20
Last Modified: 01 Aug 2014 11:48
Funders: Corporación Andina de Fomento’s Research Papers Program, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD)/LSE New Researcher Award, British Academy

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