The Many Forms of Decentralization and Citizen Trust in Government

Paper by Michael A. Nelson: “This paper contributes to the literature on the nexus between decentralization and citizen trust in government through the use of a comprehensive set of decentralization measures that have been recently developed. Using measures of autonomy at both the regional and local (municipal) levels of government, and responses from five recent waves of the World Values Survey on citizen trust/confidence in their national government, the civil service, and the police, several interesting insights emerged from the analysis. First, giving regional governments a voice in policy making for the country as a whole promotes trust in government at the national level and in the civil service. Second, deconcentration – central government offices at the regional level as opposed to autonomous regional governments –appears to be an effective strategy to generate greater confidence in government activities. Third, affording regional and local governments complete autonomy in the delivery of government services without at least some oversight by higher levels of government is not found to be trust promoting. Finally, giving local governments authority to levy at least one major tax is associated with greater government trust, a finding that is consistent with others who have found tax decentralization to be linked with better outcomes in the public sector. Overall, the analysis suggests that the caution researchers sometimes give when using one-dimensional measures of the authority/autonomy measures of subnational governments such a fiscal decentralization is warranted…(More)”.