Uniform Service? Regional Efficiency of a Public Monopolist: The Imperial German Postal Service

Florian Ploeckl

During the middle of the 19th century the idea of universal access, uniform access for everyone everywhere on the same conditions, arose for postal services in Europe including Germany. This paper looks at the regional productivity of the Reichspost, the postal service of the German Empire of 1871, to see whether uniform service also implied uniform productivity in the main sectors the service was active, namely post, telegraph and telephone. The data set ranges from 1891 to 1908, covers substantial parts of the Empire split into the 40 postal districts and contains a range of input and output measures of this monopoly. Utilizing DEA efficiency measures the paper first demonstrates similarities and differences in the comparative regional efficiency of the different communication services. A particular focus is an analysis of regional efficiency over time, demonstrating the comparative development of regional service productivity during this time. Finally an index measure is used to decompose efficiency changes into district specific efficiency changes and changes in the relative technical capability.