Public Performance & Management Review vol:37 issue:1 pages:7-32
This paper reports an analysis of 519 studies describing the impacts of NPM-type reforms across Europe. The aim was to establish whether performance-oriented reforms had led to changes in outputs and/or outcomes. This was thus a test of a central proposition in NPM theory. A number of significant conceptual and methodological problems were immediately apparent, and we describe our route through them. In conclusion, one principal finding is that although the population of studies is large, the number of high quality studies that focus on outputs is quite modest and the set addressing outcomes is very small. Another finding is that the identified impacts are distinctly ‘mixed’, with substantial proportions of studies indicating that specified outputs or outcomes are unchanged or ‘down’. Significantly, the database examines contextual influences which facilitate (or hinder) NPM reforms. Despite enormous attention, our understanding of the impacts of NPM remains both fragmentary and fragile.