Are Special Districts Strategic Complements or Strategic Substitutes?


Christopher B. Goodman and Deborah A. Carroll, “Are Special Districts Strategic Complements or Strategic Substitutes?”



What happens to service provision when a special district enters the public service market? Theoretically, special districts can act either as complements by supplementing existing service provision, or as substitutes by supplanting current service provision. We find a substitution effect using fixed effects regression on urban counties in the United States from 1972 to 2017. Special districts replace public service provision by county governments; however, we find no similar result for municipal governments. The results are nuanced – findings are confined mainly to spatially expansive public services like fire protection, sewerage, and solid waste management. Furthermore, we find evidence that day-to-day operations drive observed substitution and that county size is an important factor depending on the functional service area.

BibTeX Citation

  author = {Goodman, Christopher B. and Carroll, Deborah A.},
  note = {Working Paper},
  title = {Are Special Districts Strategic Complements or Strategic Substitutes?},
  year = {2022}

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