The (Non)Politics of Emergency Political Intervention: The Racial Geography of Urban Crisis Management in Michigan

42 Pages Posted: 26 Mar 2016

Date Written: March 24, 2016


The following mixed method study investigates Michigan’s system of fiscal emergency management, which disproportionately impacts African Americans. According to conventional explanations, the overrepresentation of emergency political intervention (EPI) in black communities is a happenstance product of African American populations being concentrated in fiscally distressed urban areas. We first investigate this hypothetically spurious association using multivariate methods. While the State’s objective fiscal scoring of local political units explains a great deal in terms of the distribution of EPI, black population is also an independently significant predictor. When we control for fiscal score, the odds of intervention in a local political unit (e.g. city, township, school district) increase by 50% for every 10 percentage-point increase in the local black population. Second, a qualitative analysis of the EPI law and its application both supports our statistical findings and points to two explanations of the role of race in EPI. First, racial bias and segregation may have a direct impact on EPI distribution. Second, race may play an indirect role, insofar as its effects are intertwined in complex ways with other processes and mechanisms. Specifically, we emphasize the relationship between post-crisis patterns of urban value extraction and the racial logic of emergency fiscal intervention.

Keywords: Michigan, Flint, Detroit, Emergency Management, Racial Geography, Democracy, Fiscal Crisis, Urban Sociology

JEL Classification: J7

Suggested Citation

Kirkpatrick, L. Owen and Breznau, Nate, The (Non)Politics of Emergency Political Intervention: The Racial Geography of Urban Crisis Management in Michigan (March 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

L. Owen Kirkpatrick (Contact Author)

SMU ( email )

6212 Bishop Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75275
United States

Nate Breznau

MZES ( email )

D-68131 Mannheim

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