Pushing the City Limits: Policy Responsiveness in Municipal Government
Urban Affairs Review (2016, Vol. 52, No. 1): pp. 3-32
53 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2014 Last revised: 22 Jun 2017
Date Written: December 5, 2014
Are city governments capable of responding to the preferences of their constituents? Or is the menu of policy options determined by forces beyond their direct control? We answer these questions using the most comprehensive cross-sectional database linking voter preferences to local policy outcomes in more than 2,000 mid-size cities and a new panel covering cities in two states. Overall, our analysis paints an encouraging picture of democracy in the city: we document substantial variation in local fiscal policy outcomes and provide evidence that voter preferences help explain why cities adopt different policies. As they become more Democratic, cities increase their spending across a number of service areas. In addition, voter sentiment shapes the other side of the ledger, determining the level and precise mix of revenues on which cities rely. In short, we show that cities respond both to competitive pressures and the needs and wants of their constituents.
Keywords: city politics, budgetary politics, partisanship, redistribution
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