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The Swiss Confederation: A Natural Laboratory for Research on Fiscal and Political Decentralization



Jametti M.


Parchet R.


Slerca E.


Brülhart M.

(Third-party beneficiary)


Switzerland represents a unique laboratory for the study of decentralized decision making and financing of public goods. The experience of the Swiss Confederation since 1848 can be seen as a real-world large-scale experiment. While the empirical public finance and political economics literatures have exploited Swiss data with considerable success for some time and produced evidence that has proven to be of interest far beyond the national context, the Swiss laboratory in its long-term historical dimension and its small-scale spatial dimension has as yet remained largely unexploited due to a lack of readily available data. This project therefore pursues three central aims. First, we shall continue our data collection effort aiming to assemble the most comprehensive longitudinal dataset on fiscal and political decentralization in Switzerland to date. In a precursor project, we concentrated our efforts on canton-level and municipality-level data from the early 1970s onward, in order to complement individual-level data on tax bases from federal income tax statistics. In the current project, we aim (a) to extend this database further into the past, and (b) to complement it with some variables that we did not have the resources to collect in the precursor project. Second, we aim to produce a number of high-level scientific papers, building on the longitudinal dataset collected through the precursor and the current Sinergia projects, on complementary data resources also compiled within the project, and on the collective expertise of the project collaborators. In addition to the shared data collection effort and the associated analysis, we foresee 16 subprojects. All of these subprojects are collaborative in nature. The common denominator is to analyze issues in public finance and political economics affecting federations. The majority of projects will use Swiss sub-federal data for empirical analyses and will therefore benefit directly from the centralized data collection effort. Publications in international peer-reviewed publications represent the principal target output for all subprojects, but we also aim to continue to contribute actively to Swiss public debate. Third, we aim to provide research and research-management experience for doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows, as well as for a number of student assistants. The longitudinal dataset and the 16 research subprojects will offer a rich source of interesting material for doctoral and post-doctoral research. Where possible, we shall strive to involve doctoral students in the project research sufficiently deeply for them to deserve coauthorship. We are organized around four research groups based respectively in Lausanne, Basel/Barcelona, Lugano/ETHZ and St.Gallen.

Additional information

Start date
End date
36 Months
Funding sources
External partners
Beneficiario principale Prof. Brühlart, UNIL
Swiss National Science Foundation / Sinergia