(When) Do Open Budgets Transform Lives? Progress and Next Steps in Fiscal Openness ResearchThis paper documents the rapidly growing empirical literature that can plausibly claim to identify causal effects of transparency or participation in budgeting in a variety of contexts. Recent studies convincingly demonstrate that the power of audits travels well beyond the context of initial field-defining studies, consider participatory budgeting beyond Brazil, where such practices were pioneered, and examine previously neglected outcomes, notably revenues and procurement. Overall, the study of the impacts of fiscal openness has become richer and more nuanced. The most well-documented causal effects are positive: lower corruption and enhanced accountability at the ballot box. Moreover, these impacts have been shown to apply across different settings. This research concludes that the empirical case for open government in this policy area is rapidly growing in strength. This paper sets out challenges related to studying national-level reforms; working directly with governments; evaluating systems as opposed to programs; clarifying the relationship between transparency and participation; and understanding trade-offs for reforms in this area. Download the paper.

This paper forms part of the Open Government Partnership’s “The Skeptic’s Guide to Open Government 2022 Edition”.