Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Affairs

First Advisor's Name

Hai Guo

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-chair

Second Advisor's Name

Can Chen

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Co-chair

Third Advisor's Name

Howard Frank

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fourth Advisor's Name

John Zdanowicz

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Zhirong Zhao

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


public-private partnership, infrastructure finance, partnership formation, government’s motivation, private capital engagement, governmental supporting strategy, public value, public choice, hybrid organization, United States

Date of Defense



The infrastructure deficit is among the most significant challenges facing the United States. The Trump and Biden administrations called for using public-private partnerships (PPPs) to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. As distinct arrangements that are part of both the public and private sectors, PPPs pose critical questions to public policy and administration. They have also gained popularity as a result of the New Public Management and Collaborative Governance movements.

By synthesizing the theories of the economics of hybrid organizations, public choice, and public value, my research suggests that PPP formation, management, and performance evaluation require the strategic interactions of both sectors, without one dominating the other. Moreover, it addresses the gap in the literature on public-private financial interactions by examining private capital engagement and its interactions with the government’s motivations, strategies, and performances.

My dissertation makes three main contributions. First, my analysis of state-level data between 2000 and 2019 demonstrates that governments propose and use PPPs, with or without private capital engagement, for different reasons. Second, through a fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis of 33 PPPs, I show that the effectiveness of governmental strategies for leveraging private capital is mixed, and the configuration of strategies matters. Third, I suggest a public value framework to evaluate PPP performance and use a comparative case study to examine the effects of private capital engagement on PPP accountability, manageability, and substantive outcomes. Using those results, I explain how private capital engagement can threaten and strengthen PPP public value delivery depending on the public value dimensions and the project’s characteristics.

Given the state of its infrastructure, the U.S. has the potential to be the world’s largest PPP market. However, governments at all levels still struggle with complex PPP structures and practices. My research provides important policy recommendations on how to structure and govern private investment, and how to ensure the public value of PPPs.






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