Local government, florida, public policy, city, county, per capita expenditures, policy shift, fiscal stress, great recession, form of government, economic downturn


The length and depth of the Great Recession of 2008 provides an opportunity to examine the policy behavior of local governments unlike any window since the 1930's post Depression era. Utilizing Peterson's (1981) City Limits typology as a framework for local government policy allows for an evaluation of whether or not the economic downturn caused local governments to change their relative expenditures between policy categories. The City Limits typology has been widely used in the literature to explain how expenditures define a local government's role in economic development. The typology has had limited use in a pre-post natural experimental research design to determine if a local government has 'shifted' policy priorities as measured by changes in expenditures among and between policy categories. This research design and the use Peterson's framework combine for a study that has not yet been conducted under similar conditions. Most of the existing literature, including the research from the 1980's, failed to account for inter-state differences that directly affect local government expenditures and policy. Concentrating solely on Florida local governments, this study eliminates the confounding nature of a national study and ensures that the unit of analysis is comparable for research purposes. The study utilizes actual expenditure data for all cities and counties in Florida from FY2006 through FY2011. The research tests for the relationships between changes in policy priorities from pre- to post-recession, and the type of government, form of government, and various socio-economic factors. The research contributes to a new body of knowledge that is just beginning to emerge in the literature about how local governments respond to periods of extreme fiscal stress. The findings suggest that cities and counties had an inverse response from pre- to post-recession with cities shifting toward developmental expenditures and counties prioritizing allocational spending. Differences were also found between forms of government. In addition, the density of population was found to contribute differently to shifts in expenditures for cities and counties. The study identifies emerging patterns that can help local governments understand past behavior and better anticipate future economic downturns.


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Graduation Date





Martin, Lawrence


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Health and Public Affairs

Degree Program

Public Affairs; Governance and Policy Research








Release Date

December 2015

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Health and Public Affairs; Health and Public Affairs -- Dissertations, Academic