Unequal Cities: Overcoming Anti-Urban Bias To Reduce Inequality in the United States

Columbia Univ Dec. 2022. 312p. ISBN 9780231173346. $35. ECONOMICS
In urban studies, research on inequality takes two forms: one asks why cities like San Francisco are relatively prosperous and cities like Buffalo are not—unequal cities—while the other focuses on disparities in income and wealth—unequal residents. Related, they require different explanations. McGahey, senior fellow at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School for Social Research, ignores the distinction, and this haunts his argument. He claims that four factors explain urban inequality: the growth and decline of different industries; the anti-urban policy bias of the federal government; state government control over cities coupled with local governmental fragmentation; and systemic racism. Running in parallel is another argument: progressive political coalitions can diminish inequality. In a shift of focus, the author also reflects on disagreements between market-oriented and institutional urban economists. These various discussions are grounded in a brief history of the industrial city and case studies of recent policy initiatives undertaken in New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles. In conclusion, McGahey calls for policies, such as job creation and affordable housing, to promote both equity and growth.
VERDICT The book covers perspectives already extensively discussed in urban literature.
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