Alternative Institutional Arrangements and Government Performance: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations of Autonomy and Accountability in Public Education

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Larry D. Schroeder


Decentralization, Accountability, Government performance, Public education

Subject Categories

Public Administration


This thesis studies the efficiency effects of government (de)centralization (i.e., decentralization or centralization) along with a number of conditions important to the effects. This is an important consideration because social science is overwhelmed by the complexity associated with studying (de)centralization, while real-world experiences cast a doubt that the reforms may not work uniformly everywhere and at every time. When, then, do the reforms work better, and where? In search of an answer to this question, this thesis consists of three parts: (a) theoretical considerations using a system-based approach, (b) an econometric analysis of cross-country cases in public education, and (c) an exploratory study which utilizes a qualitative method of structured, focused comparison involving cases of Japanese public education.

Part I develops a model which illuminates how (de)centralization affects overall allocative efficiency in a complex way. The failure to take complexity into account, as in the past, could result in an under- or overestimations of the efficiency effects of the reforms. An empirical analysis in Part II finds that two policies--granting autonomy to school agents and making the agents accountable--are associated with greater school technical efficiency and thus higher academic performance by students, although the contributions of these policies are not always additive. The qualitative study in Part III demonstrates that employee entrenchment and the reform orientation of prefectural educational administrations in Japan, among other conditions, affect the decisions of prefectures to adopt a performance-based reward system (PBRS) for school agents.

The contributions of this thesis include the following: Part I shows how a system-based approach can systematically address the complexity of (de)centralization--a task that has yet to be undertaken. Part II contributes to the decentralization literature by using parsimonious measures of autonomy and underscores the significance of interdependent effects of autonomy and accountability. Lastly, Part III contributes to organizational theories and the policy transfer literature by developing theories about how and why local governments in a unitary state make certain decisions concerning a PBRS. Combining the three parts, this thesis helps policy-makers and analysts to better understand the complex factors that are related to (de)centralization.


Surface provides description only. Full text is available to ProQuest subscribers. Ask your Librarian for assistance.