The hidden toll of privatization

What governments save in salaries and benefits often “ends up on the government books through all sorts of programs,” said Paul C. Light, a professor at the Wagner School of Public Service at New York University, referring to unemployment insurance, Medicaid and other public assistance for workers earning low incomes.

Economists and other academics who study outsourcing are divided about whether it usually saves a government money. Recent data from Arizona shows that privately operated prisons often cost more to operate than state-run facilities. A study by the Project on Government Oversight, a nonprofit Washington group, found that in 33 of 35 occupations, using contractors cost the federal government billions of dollars more than using government employees.

And some municipalities have brought outsourced services back into the public fold after determining they could perform the work as cost-effectively as private companies.

Read: As States Shift to Contract Workers, Savings Are Not Clear-Cut – (Nov. 6 11)