Decentralization: Conceptualization and Measurement
Decentralized government institutions are doing more of the work of government than ever before, but there is little agreement about 1) what decentralization means, or 2) how it should be measured. To overcome this confusion, this article builds on standard definitions of decentralization that include three core dimensions: fiscal, administrative, and political. The article offers an empirical test of that definition using factor analysis of data from 1996 for sixty-eight countries. Factor analysis confirms these three core dimensions and generates a score for each case in each dimension, allowing countries to be measured according to their type and degree of decentralization. In future work, these scores can be used for hypothesis testing about the causes and effects of decentralization on important social outcomes. This exercise demonstrates that conceptual confusion need not hamper research when empirical tests can help verify conceptual categories.