NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Transforming Cities: Does Urbanization Promote Democratic Change?

Edward L. Glaeser, Bryce Millett Steinberg

NBER Working Paper No. 22860
Issued in November 2016
NBER Program(s):Public Economics, Political Economy

Could urbanization lead to more democracy and better government for the mega-cities of the developing world? This paper reviews three channels through which urbanization may generate political change. First, cities facilitate coordinated public action and enhance the effectiveness of uprisings. Second, cities may increase the demand for democracy relative to dictatorship. Third, cities may engender the development of “civic capital” which enables citizens to improve their own institutions. History and empirics provide significant support for the first channel, but less evidence exists for the others. Urbanization may improve the quality of poor-world governments, but more research is needed to draw that conclusion.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22860

Published: Edward L. Glaeser & Bryce Millett Steinberg, 2017. "Transforming cities: does urbanization promote democratic change?," Regional Studies, vol 51(1), pages 58-68.

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