Study title
When and why do governments integrate policy sectors? A comparative analysis of eleven countries and four policy areas
Ref study 12365
Study language English
Contributing institutions
  • Délégation
  • Public policy
  • Comparative politics
  • Public administration
  • Policy integration
Geographical space
Nowadays it is well known amongst political science researchers that governments have delegated authority upwards to the supranational level, downwards to subnational jurisdictions, and sideways to independent regulators and private actors (Hooghe and Marks 2001b). Whereas the instrumental goal of delegating power is to reduce bureaucracy while improving governance capacity in an increasing complex society and in a globalized economy, delegation also came along with coordination problems, due to the fragmentation of state power. In this context, another emerging strand of research has been referring to a renewed concentration of state power, denominated as joined-up government, or whole-of-government. Especially for pressing problems, such as domestic security, or immigration, where the downsides of new public management have become apparent, the (re)integration of policy sectors is a key issue. Whilst the literature has already pointed to integration processes and related concepts in single countries, a systematic comparative assessment, especially over time, is still in its beginnings. This project addresses this shortcoming by putting together a research plan that compares the (re)integration of policy sectors (dependent variable) in four issue areas, in eleven countries over a period of 34 years. Specifically, we are going to look at domestic security, environmental policy, immigration and public health. The countries that we are going to compare are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, Switzerland, UK, USA, in the time period from 1980 to 2014. The reason for this choice is quite simple. The selected problems pose important challenges to policymakers and have already been subject to policy integration in some countries. The time period we are looking at corresponds with the conventional onset of new public management reforms. Our country sample is a selection of comparable nations regarding economic development and political institutions, but which present substantial variation in the explanatory variables. Based on a combination of political science and public administration theories, we created a theoretical model that expects different outcomes concerning policy integration in these countries. First of all, we argue that in order to consider policy sectors for integration, governments need to be alarmed about a problem. Then, there are two elements that should make policy integration more likely: Firstly, the general extent of prior delegation of power, and secondly, fiscal centralization, namely the power to raise taxes. On the other hand, there are two factors that should impede policy integration, namely the presence of many political constraints and a highly politicized bureaucracy. Our research design consists of a mixed-methods approach combining multilevel regression analysis with case study research. We begin with the former. To collect the data on our dependent variable (policy integration) we use secondary literature, reports by international organizations such as the OECD, WHO, or the EEA, as well as research from the country’s governmental and parliamentary databases. Missing information can be complemented with expert interviews. For the independent variables, we will use statistics and existing datasets. Following the longitudinal regression analysis we select instances on policy integration (crucial cases, extreme cases etc.) to make a number of case studies, in which we are going to trace the policy process that lead to sectorial integration. The case studies will help us to examine causal mechanisms and improve causal inference. Two collaborators will be hired on the project: One postdoctoral and a doctoral researcher. The project runs for 36 months and the expected output are about five journal articles and one Ph.D. thesis. We are fully convinced that the project makes important theoretical and practical contributions. By combining theories of public administration and political science we contribute a new theory concerning the integration of policy sectors. What is more, our research will help policymakers to better understand the challenges and advantages of policy integration.
Methods (description)
Methods (instruments)
Replicated study No
Financed by
Ethical approval No
Study type
Data availability
Source (Updates) SNSF
Date created 18.03.2016
Date modified 18.03.2016
Start - End date 01.03.2016 - 28.02.2019