National Studies Draw Attention to Local Governments

Maryland’s local governments end up on the right side of two recent studies regarding local governments nationwide, revealing that they are both popular and associated with higher economic development indicators.

As reported in Atlantic Cities, a recent study by the Pew Research Center showed that Americans are more likely to feel an affinity for their local government than their state government, or the federal government.  From the study,

Even as public views of the federal government in Washington have fallen to another new low, the public continues to see their state and local governments in a favorable light. Overall, 63% say they have a favorable opinion of their local government, virtually unchanged over recent years. And 57% express a favorable view of their state government – a five-point uptick from last year. By contrast, just 28% rate the federal government in Washington favorably.

An analysis by Atlantic Cities also finds that states with high levels of political fragmentation – many local governments per capita, tend to be negatively associated with the state affluence.  States with more local governments per capita have lower average incomes and average wages, as reported.  In Maryland, however, there are fewer than 50 county government and municipal governments per 100,000 residents, the lowest such level ranked in the study.  As reported,

. . . five states have less than 10 local governments per 100,000 people — Hawaii (1.6), Maryland (6.1), Virginia (6.3), Nevada (7.1), and Florida (8.3). . .[Those states avoid the political fragmentation that is] negatively correlated with three key measures of state economic performance — average incomes (-.51), average wages (-.61) and high tech industry (-.30).

As described by the Department of Legislative Services, counties are the principal unit of local government in Maryland, responsible for most basic services such as police, fire, local corrections, sanitation, highways, health and parks and recreation.  Maryland has 24 counties, including Baltimore City, 156 municipalities, and 76 special districts, for a total of 256 local government units.  By comparison, neighboring Pennsylvania has a total of 4,871 local government units.

For more information, see the full story from Atlantic Cities or the Department of Legislative Service’s publication, Maryland Local Government.