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Measuring Local Autonomy in 39 Countries (1990–2014)

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Author Ladner Andreas, Keuffer Nicolas, Baldersheim Harald,
Project Local Autonomy and Local Public Sector Reforms
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Regional & Federal Studies
Volume (Issue) 26(3)
Page(s) 321 - 357
Title of proceedings Regional & Federal Studies
DOI 10.1080/13597566.2016.1214911


Local autonomy is a highly valued feature of good governance. The continuous efforts of many European countries to strengthen the autonomy of local government show the importance given to decentralization and the transfer of far-reaching competences to the lowest units. Measuring and comparing local autonomy, however, has proven to be challenging. Not only are there diverging ideas about the core elements of local autonomy, there are also considerable difficulties applying specific concepts to different countries. This paper outlines a comprehensive methodology for measuring local autonomy. It analyses 39 European countries and reports changes between 1990 and 2014. A network of experts on local government assessed the autonomy of local government of their respective countries on the basis of a common code book. The 11 variables measured show an overall increase of local autonomy but significant variation between the countries. The variables also add up to an overall measurement of local autonomy.