The comprehension that government capacities have far-ranging consequences for markets and citizens’ welfare is not new. Nevertheless, a serious gap in this field is the lack of reflection on the sub national government, even though regions and cities are crucial for the implementation of policies and reforms. This gap is even more puzzling because it disregards that the government performance and capacities vary as largely within countries as between them. This project asks why some cities perform better than others that share similar socio-economic and political characteristics? This large, yet still mostly overlooked, sub-national variation amongst European cities, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe, points to insufficiencies of current theories and present a missed opportunity to find levers of change. Considering the sizeable share of public goods being provided at the city level, the methodological benefits of studying institutions in the subnational setting, the project fills these gaps by systematically comparing local administrative capacity and its determinants. The proposed project has the following key research objectives: 1) To map quantitatively how the local governments’ administrative capacity, quality of service delivery and performance vary across cities. 2) Provide and test explanations for differences in performance between cities. 3) To uncover mechanisms that allow a city to improve its administrative capacity and thus, explain why some cities perform significantly better than their regions and similar towns. The project compares cities across and within countries (Spain, the Czech Republic, Romania) and employs mixed method research that integrates quantitative analysis and qualitative case studies.
The project contributes to current empirical research by proving the first comparative dataset of administrative capacity in cities. It develops an original theoretical framework combining insights from political economy and public administration. It employs an innovative multi-level comparative perspective inserted in an innovative mix-method analysis that covers time, within and cross-country dimensions. The findings will be published in academic journals and publicly-available online posts.