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The Impact of Recentralization on Public Services: A Difference-in-Differences Analysis of the Abolition of Elected Councils in Vietnam


Comparative political economy offers a wealth of hypotheses connecting decentralization to improved public service delivery. In recent years, influential formal and experimental work has begun to question the underlying theory and empirical analyses of previous findings. At the same time, many countries have grown dissatisfied with the results of their decentralization efforts and have begun to reverse them. Vietnam is particularly intriguing because of the unique way in which it designed its recentralization, piloting a removal of elected people's councils in 99 districts across the country and stratifying the selection by region, type of province, and urban versus rural setting. We take advantage of the opportunity provided by this quasi experiment to test the core hypotheses regarding the decision to shift administrative and fiscal authority to local governments. We find that recentralization significantly improved public service delivery in areas important to central policy-makers, especially in transportation, healthcare, and communications.

Corresponding author
Edmund J. Malesky is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Duke University (
Cuong Viet Nguyen is Researcher, National Economics University, Hanoi, Vietnam (
Anh Tran is Assistant Professor, School of Public & Env. Affairs, Indiana University Bloomington (
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