What do they know, and whom do they hold accountable? Citizens in the government-nonprofit contracting relationship

David M. Van Slyke, Christine H. Roch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


Devolution and pressures from elected officials and citizens to reduce government involvement in service provision have increasingly led many public agencies to contract with nonprofits for service delivery. In this article we consider the effects of the changing institutional arrangements governing the delivery of publicly funded social services on citizens' satisfaction and ability to hold service providers accountable. Specifically, we consider whether citizens are able to accurately identify service providers as nonprofit or governmental providers and investigate what drives individual perceived and actual use of nonprofits for social services; what the relationship is between perceived and actual use and a citizen's satisfaction with social services; and whether satisfaction with services influences the likelihood that chizens will correctly identify a provider as a nonprofit or governmental agency. Using public opinion data, we examine these questions empirically. Our results suggest that citizens are more likely to misidentify nonprofit service providers as governmental agencies when they are less satisfied with the services that they have received. The public management implications of contracting with nonprofit organizations and citizen satisfaction and accountability are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-209
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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