The Effects of Fiscal Decentralization on Publicly Provided Services and Labor Markets (WP-21-55)
Nicola Bianchi, Michela Giorcelli, and Enrica Maria MartinoThis paper studies how fiscal decentralization affects local services. It explores a 1993 reform that increased the fiscal autonomy of Italian municipalities by replacing government transfers with revenues from a local property tax. The researchers’ identification leverages cross-municipal variation in the degree of decentralization that stems from differences in the average age of buildings caused by bombings during WWII. Decentralization reduced local spending but expanded municipal services, such as nursery schools. These effects are larger in areas with greater political competition. The paper also investigates how the reform affected labor markets. Decentralization increased female labor supply—probably through expanded availability of nursery schools—thereby reducing the gender gap in employment.