Urban Politics

This course is an introduction to urban politics in the United States. It will focus on two principal problems of cities and discuss solutions to these problems. First, municipal governments (unlike federal and state governments) lack much of the formal authority necessary to resolve issues that arise within their borders, leaving economic growth and development as the primary focus of metropolitan public policy. Second, metropolitan areas in the United States have much higher rates of class, race, and ethnic heterogeneity and segregation.  The demographics of urban life influence the policies cities pursue and their economic realities. In the first half of the class, we will learn about the heritage of municipal government in the U.S., the development of their responsibilities, and the role of federal and state governments in municipal affairs. The second half of the course will discuss some of the solutions for the economic development focus and demographics problems.  We will discuss, among others, the solutions of structural changes, protest, interest groups, and electoral politics.



This course has three specific goals. The first is for you to learn about how policy is made in U.S. cities. To this end, we will spend time discussing the policies that cities engage in, who makes these policies, and who are the target of these policies. We will also examine, compare, and analyze the existing theories about policy making in cities.

The second goal is for you to understand the role that economic and social status plays in urban policymaking process. To meet this goal, we will examine theories about the role of economic inequity in developing urban public policy. We will also spend significant time on the role of racial and ethnic minorities in the urban policy process.

A third goal of this course is to provide you with opportunities to engage in your own research, and use these skills to build on the extant literature. To this end, we will also spend time each class discussing any issues with that week’s readings, and ways to address these issues in future research.  In addition, each student is encouraged to examine questions of policy making in urban politics on their own, and to pursue these questions in an individual research project. 

M Holman,
Oct 3, 2012, 6:17 PM