What Sector Do Consumers Prefer for the Delivery of ‘Public’ Services? A Comparative Analysis of the US and China


  • Ken Meier American University, Cardiff University, and Leiden University
  • Anita Dhillon American University
  • Xiaoyang Xu American University




Citizen Preferences for Service Delivery, Sector Differences, Comparative Analysis, China, United States


Although we have literature on the advantages and disadvantages of delivering public services via public, nonprofit, or for-profit organizations, there is little research on who the public prefers to deliver such services. This study uses a least similar systems design to present an exploratory analysis of such preferences in the US and China for twelve different service areas. Based on two internet surveys, we find that general sector preferences for services are similar across the countries, but there are differences in emphasis for some of the individual services that reflect the country’s historical, cultural, and political traditions. The reasons for such similarities, however, appear to be different in the two countries.

Author Biographies

Ken Meier, American University, Cardiff University, and Leiden University

Kenneth J. Meier is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at American University and holds faculty appointments at the Cardiff School of Business (UK) and Leiden University (the Netherlands). His research interests include public management, equity and public policy, methodological issues in the social sciences, and new theories of representative bureaucracy, organizational environments, and managerial decision making.

Anita Dhillon, American University

Anita Dhillon is a PhD candidate in public administration and public policy in the School of Public Affairs at American University. Her research interests focus on social welfare policies, human resource management, nonprofits, and organizations under stress.  Her dissertation is on child protective services in the US, and she has previously published in International Public Management Journal.

Xiaoyang Xu, American University

Xiaoyang Xu is a PhD candidate in the Department of Public Administration and Policy in the School of Public Affairs at American University. Her research interests include gender and public administration, sector preferences for public service delivery, budgeting, and theories of representative bureaucracy.






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