Convergence Without Diffusion?

A Comparative Analysis of the Choice of Performance Indicators in Tax Administration and Social Security

Published in: International Review of Administrative Sciences, v. 74, no. 4, Dec. 2008, p. 589-614

Posted on RAND.org on December 01, 2008

by Christian Van Stolk, Kai Wegrich

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This article cross-nationally compares the choice of performance indicators in two core fields of state activity, tax administration and social security. Exploring the selection of performance indicators in six countries (Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, the UK and the US), the article analyses the driving forces for the choice of particular indicators in the context of national administrative traditions and more recent reform agendas on the one hand and the trend towards international exchange and `benchmarking' on the other hand. The article explores the relative significance and interaction of different driving forces of choice and how this shapes the development and application of performance indicators. To that end, it combines instutionalist approaches with the literature on the mechanisms and effects of international exchange and policy diffusion. Our analysis suggests that existing broad similarities are linked to similarities in core activities and values underlying contemporary public service reforms. Variation in the choice of performance indicators (PIs) reflects domestic factors such as governance arrangements through which broad reform trends are filtered. These arrangements also mediate any direct international learning.

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