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The Effects of Metropolitan Economic Segregation on Local Civic Participation

J. Eric Oliver
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Jan., 1999), pp. 186-212
DOI: 10.2307/2991790
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2991790
Page Count: 27
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The Effects of Metropolitan Economic Segregation on Local Civic Participation
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Abstract

America's suburbs are often accused of being civically inhospitable, but researchers have yet to demonstrate whether suburban social contexts actually influence civic behavior. Part of the problem arises from the definition of suburb. Cities in metropolitan areas are not well distinguished by city/suburb dichotomies but are differentiated by their affluence and economic heterogeneity. These economic characteristics influence citizen participation in two ways. First, affluent cities have fewer social "needs" prompting citizen action. Second, heterogeneous cities have more competition for public goods, which stimulates citizen interest and participation. These hypotheses are supported with findings from a cross-level data set constructed from the 1990 Citizen Participation Study and the 1990 Census. Civic participation is lowest in homogeneous, affluent cities and highest in diverse, middle-income cities largely because of varying levels of local political interest. Such results demonstrate the importance of economic contexts for participation and the civic implications of political fragmentation in metropolitan areas.

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