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How Political are Government Contracting Decisions? An Examination of Human Service Contracting Determinants

PAQ, Vol. 37 No. 2, (2013)

Government contracting has become a common practice at all levels of governments. However, the motivations behind government make-or-buy decisions are still not well understood. Public management operates in a complex organizational environment, integrating both political and pragmatic forces. This study explores the potential determinants of state governments’ contracting out human services with nonprofit organizations. Based on a survey of state government-nonprofit human service contracting across the fifty states in 2009, the research presented here develops a regression model including multiple variables capturing both political and pragmatic factors that are theoretically assumed to affect government contracting decisions. The results show public employee unions as political factors, combined with human service demands and state fiscal difficulty as pragmatic factors, account for the variations in state government human service contracting.

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