Patterns of Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Federal vs. Unitary European Democracies
67 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2020
Date Written: September 7, 2020
Do countries with federal political structures develop more or less effective policies compared to those with unitary political structures? We seek to resolve this long-standing theoretical debate by arguing that the extent to which federalist countries reap the benefits or suffer the costs of giving sub-national units greater autonomy depends on whether a given policy is itself more optimally implemented homogenously or heterogeneously across different regions. Using both statistical and qualitative case study methods, we analyse national and sub-national policy responses to COVID-19 in 2 federal (Germany and Switzerland) and 2 unitary countries (France and Italy). We find that overall, federal countries are more likely to possess heterogeneity in their policy responses than unitary countries. We find mixed evidence as to whether federal or unitary countries' policies are more responsive to the severity of the COVID-19 crisis at the sub-national level.
Keywords: federalism, health policy, COVID-19, policymaking
JEL Classification: H77, I28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation