Street-Level Governments

Assessing Decentralization and Urban Services (An Evaluation of Policy Related Research)

by Robert K. Yin, Douglas Yates

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This study reviews the experiences with local school board elections, neighborhood health centers, team policing, community development corporations, little city halls, and other attempts to improve neighborhood services through decentralization. The review is based on an assessment of 269 existing case studies that were initially screened for research quality. The major findings are that decentralization mainly produces an increase in flow of information and an improvement in services, and that service improvements are in fact positively correlated with increase in client control. The major conclusion is that strong forms of decentralization could achieve positive outcomes, but that such forms are usually tried in open service bureaucracies (e.g., education) rather than closed ones (e.g., police and health). Neighborhood services, in other words, consist of different street-level governments that follow different professional and bureaucratic rules, and these affect the implementation of any general policies such as decentralization.

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