Majoritarian Cities

Policy Making and Inequality in Urban Politics
Neil Kraus


Neil Kraus evaluates both the influence of public opinion on local policy-making and the extent to which public policy addresses economic and social inequalities. Drawing on several years of fieldwork and multiple sources of data, including surveys and polls; initiatives, referenda, and election results; government documents; focus groups; interviews; and a wide assortment of secondary sources, Kraus presents case studies of two Midwestern cities, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Gary, Indiana. Specifically, he focuses on several major policy decisions in recent decades concerning education, law enforcement, and affordable housing in Minneapolis; and education and riverboat casino development in Gary.

Kraus finds that, on these issues, local officials frequently take action that reflects public opinion, yet the resulting policies often fail to meet the needs of the disadvantaged or ameliorate the effects of concentrated poverty. In light of citizens’ current attitudes, he concludes that if patterns of inequality are to be more effectively addressed, scholars and policymakers must transform the debate about the causes and effects of inequality in urban and metropolitan settings.

“This book continues in the footsteps of giants such as Robert Dahl, examining democratic governance in urban politics. Kraus shows that equal opportunity can be as threatened by majoritarian politics as it can by elite-dominated regimes. The argument is an important contribution to the urban politics scholarship, and the accessible writing and interesting case studies make it the rare scholarly work that will engage undergraduates as well.”
—Andrew L. Aoki, Augsburg College

“The author’s arguments that leaders need to initiate a public discussion aimed at pushing citizens toward a public-spirited approach to all these urban issues and that ‘it is time to bring the public back in’ are important to our urban and national future.”
—Dick Simpson, University of Illinois at Chicago

“Neil Kraus creatively marshals data to assess whether urban public policies are the product of the mobilization of majorities and whether these policy outcomes exacerbate or ameliorate economic and political inequalities. . . . Kraus tests Growth Machine, Regime, Pluralist and Public Choice theories, not only on the familiar ground of economic policy but on other areas that are crucial to citizens and scholars of public policy. This is a book that will enliven debate on the quality of urban democracy and empirically enrich discussions of comparative urban policy.”
—Richard Keiser, Carleton College


Neil Kraus is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls

Praise / Awards

  • “Kraus presents a convincing argument that the advocates of education reform, affordable housing and other policies that bear on local social and economic opportunity have common cause in shaping public opinion not only on their favoured issues, but also on the broader questions of social and economic inequality within their cities.”
    Urban Studies
  • "This is a welcome addition to a growing number of political science studies probing the politics and policies affecting income inequality. ... Highly recommended."
  • "In Majoritarian Cities: Policy Making and Inequality in Urban Politics, Neil Krauss presents a thought-provoking challenge to the literature... this book is an intriguing addition to the ongoing conversation within planning about the next stage of urban political theory."
    --Journal of Planning Education and Research
  • "There is a great deal to be heard and heeded in this book. Kraus writes compellingly, with hearfelt outrage, of apparently widespread acceptance - or acquiescence, or resignedly passive acceptance - of real injustice in and around both cities."
    --Jonathan B. Justice, Political Science Quarterly

Look Inside

Product Details

  • 288 pages.
  • 1 figure, 31 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2013
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-02954-9

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Minneapolis, Minnesota, politics, Gary, Indiana, politics, Urban education policy, Affordable housing policy, Community power,Local law enforcement policy, Urban inequality, Metropolitan inequality, Concentrated poverty, Riverboat casinos