2011/43: Decentralization of government and contracting with the private sector
Using a simple model of incomplete contracts to characterize the relationship between decentralization and contracting with the private sector, I show that, provided that the expected reduction in quality is low, more decentralized local governments will contract more with the private sector. Then, I use the 2001 decentralization reform in Colombia to test these ideas. Particularly important, the reform entitles more decentralized municipalities to sign subsidy contracts with private schools, and departments (a higher level of government) to do so for the less decentralized municipalities. I take advantage of the fact that the level of decentralization is decided using an exogenous population threshold to identify causal effects using Regression Discontinuity Design. The empirical results are consistent with the prediction of the model. More decentralized municipalities subsidize more students in private schools. There are no significant differences in enrolment in public schools across more and less decentralized municipalities.