Title

Centralized versus Decentralized Decision-Making in a County Government Setting

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

Economics of Governance

Volume

3

Publication Date

2002

First Page

101

Last Page

115

Abstract

During the November 1988 election cycle, the residents of Mississippi's 82 counties were allowed to choose whether or not to switch to an alternative system for governing the construction and repair of county roads. Under the system then used statewide – the so-called beat system – each of a county's five elected supervisors determined spending priorities and allocated funds within the boundaries of his or her own district. Under the alternative system – the so-called unit system – such choices were to be made by the supervisors collectively and then executed by a hired professional road manager. This paper models the decision of voters to retain the beat system (38 counties) or to switch to the unit system (44 counties). Theory and evidence suggest that the choice between centralized versus decentralized governance depends on the perceived costs and benefits of the alternatives to voters and their elected representatives.

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