The Rise of Specialized Governance in American Federalism: Testing Links Between Local Government Autonomy and Formation of Special District Governments

“Focusing on three dimensions of government autonomy—local government capacity, local government discretion, and local government importance—I find that the growth of certain types of special districts is in part a response to state laws constraining government autonomy of general-purpose governments. The findings also suggest that reliance on special districts by local general-purpose governments would decrease if they had stronger own-source revenue-raising capacities and more diversified tax revenue bases. In contrast with prior studies, the analysis provides limited evidence to support the notion that special districts are formed by general-purpose governments to circumvent fiscal restrictions, such as debt limits and tax and expenditure limitations.”

In this article, I investigate whether the growth of special districts in the fifty states from 1972 to 2002 can be explained by choices made by local general-purpose governments in response to different degrees of government autonomy in the fiscal, institutional, and political system.

Published in Publius-the Journal of Federalism | Yu Shi | 2017,,