Governing the Hollow State

H. Brinton Milward, Keith G. Provan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

725 Scopus citations


For the past ten years the authors have conducted a concentrated research program on the dimensions and impact of the hollow state. The hollow state is a metaphor for the increasing use of third parties, often nonprofits, to deliver social services and generally act in the name of the state. The types of structures, incentives, and mechanisms used to control third-party providers have been the focus of this research. The empirical thrust of this research is on how effective various types of mechanisms, structures, and incentives are at promoting the effectiveness of contracted services. The normative question this research has raised, but not answered, is, What effect does government contracting with third-party providers have on the perceived legitimacy of the state? This article is a summary of the theoretical development and the empirical findings from the authors' research on the dimensions and impact of the hollow state in the domain of health and human services contracting. Elements of this article have appeared previously in this journal and in many others as well. The article's purpose is to integrate the authors' research on the hollow state. This is a summative article that seeks to bring together in one place what the authors have learned. In addition, new directions are explored for future research on the hollow state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-379
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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