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What influences success of small local government amalgamations: a comparison of cases in Thailand and the United States

Grichawat Lowatcharin (College of Local Administration, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand)
Charles David Crumpton (University of Maryland at College Park, College Park, Maryland, USA)
Charles E. Menifield (Rutgers University Newark, Newark, New Jersey, USA)
Pummin Promsorn (Kut That Subdistrict Administrative Organization, Khon Kaen, Thailand)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 30 April 2021

Issue publication date: 28 June 2021




Municipal amalgamation (or merger or consolidation) is commonly employed in countries around the world to improve efficiency in public service. While mergers occur among jurisdictions of all sizes, the municipal amalgamation discourse is typically limited to one national setting and a focus on mergers of larger local jurisdictions. The existing municipal amalgamation literature pays little attention to predicate conditions for successful mergers. This study seeks to address these deficiencies by examining the premerger conditions and effects of municipal amalgamations that recently took place in four small jurisdictions of similar size in Thailand and the United States.


A holistic multiple case study approach was employed. These two cases share a geographical attribute: one municipal jurisdiction encircled by another.


The evidence indicates that factors associated with what the researchers refer to as “familiarity” facilitated both successful approval of and outcomes resulting from the amalgamation actions. While the study's findings align with international research regarding the potential for reducing administrative support costs through consolidation, its findings diverge from existing international evidence in that the evidence indicates operating effectiveness and efficiency improvements. Economies of scope and marginal economies of scale are in evidence. Although findings from this study indicate that there might be problematic effects regarding political representation and participation, in that the consolidated jurisdictions remain small in size, negative citizen engagement and participation consequences may be less than that evidenced in larger consolidated jurisdictions.


The study introduces the “familiarity” theorem as a theoretical lens to assist in understanding the cases.



This work was supported by the Research Group on Local Affairs Administration, Khon Kaen University, under Grant 16/2017.

A preliminary version of the current manuscript was presented as a contribution to the 2018 Annual Conference of the European Group for Public Administration (Joint Track: PSG IV: Local Governance and Democracy & PSG V: Regional and Local Government, Theme II: The Rebirth of Regional and Local Initiative?).

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.


Lowatcharin, G., Crumpton, C., Menifield, C.E. and Promsorn, P. (2021), "What influences success of small local government amalgamations: a comparison of cases in Thailand and the United States", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 34 No. 5, pp. 568-585.



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