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PS221 lecture 8b - Lecture 8b The Political Consequences of...

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Lecture 8b February 28, 2007 The Political Consequences of Suburbanization What impact has suburbanization had on political participation norms? Cities were once much more economically diverse, especially during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. But contemporary American cities have lost much of their socioeconomic diversity. With suburbanization and the widespread use of exclusionary zoning, wealth is now increasingly differentiated among American cities, rather than just among its citizens. As I noted on Tuesday, suburbanites have used incorporation and zoning laws to maintain the economic homogeneity of their municipalities and wall themselves off from the undesirable poor. In short, suburbanization has been accompanied by increasing economic segregation. I. Suburbs are distinct not just because they contain wealthier residents than central cities. They are also distinct because they increasingly house only wealthy or middle class residents. Just as poverty has become more concentrated over the last several decades, so too has wealth. With the exit of middle class residents, poorer cities become comprised increasingly of only poor people. On the other hand, the affluent in well-to-do cities use incorporation and zoning to keep out the poor, attract only wealthy residents, and ultimately concentrate their affluence. In effect, resources are drained from poorer cities and concentrated in wealthier cities. With increases both in concentrated wealth and poverty, cities across metropolitan American have declined in their socioeconomic diversity and become more economically segregated.
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A. Consider these statistics. Data from a number of studies reveal a curvilinear relationship between a city’s median income and its level of economic diversity. The most economically diverse cities are in the middle income range while the most homogeneous cities are on both the high and the low end of the income spectrum. MAYBE: Ask students to explain how zoning contributes to this pattern . II.So zoning and incorporation in suburbs has increased both political fragmentation (i.e. more smaller municipalities) and economic segregation among municipalities. What effect do these high levels of economic segregation have on civic and political participation patterns in American cities. I want students to share their predictions. Let’s approach this deductively. There are three possibilities: 1) norms; 2) needs; 3) conflict and competition. A. Norms 1) Superior skills and resources increase opportunities for civic participation. The accumulation and concentration of these resources in middle class and affluent cities promotes democratic engagement. 2) The homogeneity of affluent places may make participation a norm. Early ethnographic studies of suburbs (i.e., William Whyte and Herbert Gans) supported this view.
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