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The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government

Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations Archive
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Federalism Archive

Updating Theories of American Federalism

States have played a strong and leading role in responding to domestic needs; they still do; and their role has been crucial for the development of national domestic policies and programs.
Richard P. Nathan, a chapter from Intergovernmental Management for the 21st Century, the Brookings Institution
© 2008.

Accountability in K-12 Education

With the No Child Left Behind Act up for renewal, it’s time for big thinking on intergovernmental collaboration in the ways we measure and report results in our schools.
Allison Armour-Garb, June 2008

Rebuilding the Government Statistics Infrastructure

After completing the first-ever external review of the work of the U.S. Census Bureau's Governments Division, the Committee on National Statistics of the National Academies called for a two-track strategic plan. This approach would prioritize the steps that Census Bureau management would take under either of two scenarios: if its resources continued to be constrained, or if it saw opportunities to develop its programs.
Yolanda K. Kodrzycki, Senior Economist and Policy Advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and Member, National Academies Review Board on Government Statistics, March 2008.

New Findings on the End of Post-Reform Growth in Social Services: Social Welfare Spending by State and Local Governments, 1977-2005

A remarkable development in the late 1990s was the growth in state and local spending on noncash social services for low-income families. However, data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of State and Local Government Finances reveal that this expansion in social services stopped after 2002, and that social service spending continued to fall through 2005. Spending on cash assistance also declined, extending a decade-long trend, while medical assistance expenditures grew. The report also shows large differences between comparatively wealthy and poor states in their spending on social services. This report updates an earlier version that presented spending data only through 2004, and it provides state-specific data on spending changes between 1995 and 2005.
Thomas Gais, Suho Bae, and Lucy Dadayan. August 2007.

Federalism: Still A Check on Power?

Federalism balances the U.S. political system. However, as the years have gone by, it has become less of a checking instrument. The theory of dual federalism — that there is a division of responsibilities between the national government and the states — was strongly manifest in the nineteenth century. But that was then. What about now?
Richard P. Nathan, September 2, 2006.

Striking While the Iron Is Hot — State and Local Transitions and the First 100 Days

There is no time like the beginning. There is excitement and high expectation; and, hopefully, there are few angry flared-up controversies to contend with. There are two things that count the most in the early days of a new administration — people and ideas. The sooner a leader has a good handle on them, the better, including decisions made in and before a victorious campaign began.
Richard P. Nathan, February 2006.

There Will Always Be a New Federalism

The latest ideas about "New Federalism," the values of federalism at the state and grassroots levels, the ways the federalism concept has changed historically, and its role as a force for public sector growth.
Richard P. Nathan, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, February 14, 2006.

The Promise and Perils of Executive Federalism: The Case of Medicaid Waivers

The volume and substance of Medicaid waiver activity under the presidencies of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.
Frank Thompson and Courtney Burke, American Political Science Association, September 1, 2006.

Federalism and the Executive Branch

State and national agendas are converging, and this has made the federal executive branch and its interactions with the states a primary locus for producing major changes in domestic policies.
Thomas Gais, and James W. Fossett, in Joel Aberbach and Mark Peterson (eds), Presidents and Bureaucrats: The Executive Branch and American Democracy (Oxford University Press, 2005).

Bush Federalism: Is There One, What Is It, and How Does It Differ?

This paper focuses on one facet of the hybrid American federal form, the relationship between the national government and the states, with our purpose being to interpret in historical perspective the way President George W. Bush views this relationship.
Richard P. Nathan, Thomas L. Gais, and James W. Fossett, Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management Annual Research Conference, November 7, 2003.

‘Complexifying’ Performance Oversight in America’s Governments

The performance management movement in American government is on the right track, but it oversimplifies. The aim of this paper is to suggest ways in which efforts to improve government performance can be reconciled with the pluralistic setting of U.S. public management.
Richard P. Nathan, Presidential Address, Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management, Atlanta, Georgia, October 29, 2004.

The Expanding Administrative Presidency: George W. Bush and the Faith-Based Initiative

This report examines the steps taken to promote and implement the Faith-Based Initiative since it was first introduced by President Bush in January 2001 and details changes in federal rules, bureaucracies, funding, and public outreach advanced by the Bush Administration to increase partnerships with faith-based groups to provide a vast array of human services.
Anne Farris, Richard P. Nathan, and David J. Wright, 2004.

Field Network Studies

When the federal government reforms welfare programs, the institutions operating them — state and local governments and private institutions — face a new set of rules. Because these institutions have some degree of flexibility in responding to the new rules, their decisions influence whether and how the new policy is realized. One method for examining their responses to federal welfare reform, and for examining the responses of institutions to policy changes in other areas, is field network evaluation.
Irene Lurie, in Policy Into Action: Implementation Research and Welfare Reform, The Urban Institute, 2003.

A New Puzzle for Federalism: Different State Responses to Medicaid and Food Stamps

Devolution has given states greater decision-making authority in both health care policies and the Food Stamp Program in recent years. This paper looks at various experiences in these program areas that raise important questions about the adequacy of the dominant theoretical traditions of federalism.
James W. Fossett and Thomas L. Gais, presented at the American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, August 2002.

Performance Management Comes to Washington: A Status Report on the Government Performance and Results Act

Seven years after the U.S. Congress enacted an ambitious law to reform government to focus on getting results — the Government Performance and Results Act (GRPA) — that law had come to a critical juncture. After extensive study of the subject, as well as interviews and meetings with a large number of federal officials, Dall Forsythe’s principal finding is that the federal government has made surprisingly good progress in implementing the GPRA. It will be some time before we can be sure that those efforts have in fact produced results in the form of improvements in services.
Dall Forsythe, February 2000.

Managing Welfare Reform in Five States: The Challenge of Devolution

The performance management movement in American government is on the right track, but it oversimplifies. The aim of this paper is to suggest ways in which efforts to improve government performance can be reconciled with the pluralistic setting of U.S. public management.
Sarah Liebschutz (ed.), The Rockefeller Institute Press, 2000.
Order from SUNY Press

Implementation of the Personal Responsibility Act of 1996

This study seeks to learn how state and local policies are implemented at the ground level by directly observing face-to-face interactions between TANF applicants and recipients and frontline workers.
Thomas L. Gais, Richard P. Nathan, Irene Lurie, and Thomas Kaplan, in Rebecca Blank and Ron Haskins (eds.), The New World of Welfare, The Brookings Institution Press, September 2001.

Implementing the Personal Responsibility of 1996: A First Look

Focusing on what happens to national policies after they are made, the authors discover that there are surprises in the implementation of the 1996 Personal Responsibility Act and its connections to other social agencies and programs.
Richard Nathan and Thomas Gais, The Rockefeller Institute Press, January 1999.

2001 Annual Report: Federalism Research Group

This report reviews research and dissemination efforts on the implications of the 1996 Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act. In FY 2001, Rockefeller Institute staff drew extensively from that research to disseminate findings about what has — and has not — changed under devolution, what kinds of new social service systems are evolving, and what are the implications of those developments for the reauthorization of TANF

Federal Capital Investment and the Balanced Budget Amendment: The Pros and Cons of a Federal Capital Budget

This study examines the debate over requiring the federal government to produce a capital budget. It is adapted from work initially prepared for a joint project of the Brookings Institution and the Rockefeller Institute of Government intended to foster an open and informed debate on proposed constitutional amendments to require a balanced federal budget.
Alec Ian Gershberg and Joseph F. Benning, December 1999.

The Field Network Evaluation Studies of Intergovernmental Grants: A Contrast with the Orthodox Economic Approach

Along with a group of colleagues, the authors have been engaged in field network evaluation studies to evaluate domestic programs of the American national government, especially those administered in the form of grants-in-aid. As the field studies evolved they have developed a methodology for policy evaluation that differs substantially from that of studies rooted in conventional neoclassical economic theory. In this paper we contrast the orthodox economics approach and the field network evaluation studies approach as they apply to the impact of federal grants-in-aid to state and local governments. The field network evaluation studies can be seen as an alternative approach, as well as a way of modifying critical assumptions in the conduct of studies based on conventional neo-classical modes of intergovernmental interaction.
V. Lane Rawlins and Richard P. Nathan, reprinted from The American Economic Review, Vol. 72, No. 2, May 1982.

Frustrated Federalism: Rx for State and Local Health Care Reform

Considering the increased attention to the health care crisis, and given the likelihood that state and local governments will play a key role in any reform efforts, it is appropriate to canvass both the “is” and the “ought” of state and local health care activities. Which health care tasks do state and local governments perform? How good a job are they doing? How can their performance (and the performance of the system as a whole) be improved? Does the Clinton reform plan move us in the right direction? These are the questions examined in this report. The findings of the report represent a challenge and an agenda for public officials at all levels of government.
The National Commission on the State and Local Public Service, 1993.

Highlights From the Newest Edition of 'Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism' (State Fiscal Brief No. 49)

This article highlights some of the major themes found in the newest edition of Significant Features of Fiscal Federalism, Vol. II (SFFF). This article focuses on: (1) the size of U.S., federal, state, and local governments and how they raise and spend money; (2) government employment trends; (3) regional comparisons of government spending and revenue, population, and personal income; (4) changes in federal government grants-in-aid (including entitlement programs such as Medicaid and Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC); and (5) recent trends in government finance (such as the slowing of Medicaid spending, the shift of the nation’s primary welfare program from an entitlement program to a block grant, the surge in tax revenues in the 1990s, and the increase in local spending).
Donald J. Boyd and David F. Liebschutz, April 1998.

State Medicaid Agencies as Key Actors in Medicaid Managed-Care (Case Studies in Medicaid Managed-Care)

The politics entailed in state Medicaid managed-care decisions have been either ignored or written off as “idiosyncratic” by most researchers. Yet Medicaid agency directors and other practitioners recognize the importance of political influences in developing Medicaid policy. This report seeks to help shed light on the role of political actors in Medicaid managed-care policymaking by analyzing political leadership and lobbying in ten states.
Carol S. Weissert, 2002.

Revenue Sharing: The Second Round

The federal revenue sharing program began in 1972. The law was renewed in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. The distinguishing feature of general revenue sharing was that, for the first time, federal money was made available to state and local governments on a nearly unrestricted basis. One of the two authors, Richard Nathan, had monitored the distributional, fiscal, and political effects of the program since 1972 (Monitoring Revenue Sharing, Brookings 1975). This second volume, reflects continued monitoring of the revenue-sharing program, updates its history, and considers the far-ranging political and economic issues it has raised. A review of the data in relation to the 1976 changes in the law is also provided.
Richard P. Nathan and Charles F. Adams, The Brookings Institution, 1977.