When Does Ideology Matter? an Empirical Analysis of French Municipalities’ Make-or-buy Choices
Abstract: Many empirical studies have analyzed the factors that influence local government decisions regarding the management of public services. In those studies, ideological motives are often found to be not, or at least very slightly, significant. This absence of ideological impact is often interpreted as a proof that local governments are more guided by pragmatic rather than ideological motivations, notably because contracting out has become less controversial. Nevertheless, ideological factors are almost always estimated by the percentage of left-wing (or right-wing) votes in the last local election and this measure of ideological motives ignores the fact that management of public services might be pathdependent, i.e. strongly connected to choices made by previous officials. In this paper, we show that the configuration of public services procurement at the local level can be explained by ideological motives when ideology is properly measured, that is over a longterm past period. We also find that the influence of ideology is all the more important when services are considered as highly sensitive by local voters.