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Segregation by Design
Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities


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  • Date Published: February 2019
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108454988

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About the Authors
  • Segregation by Design draws on more than 100 years of quantitative and qualitative data from thousands of American cities to explore how local governments generate race and class segregation. Starting in the early twentieth century, cities have used their power of land use control to determine the location and availability of housing, amenities (such as parks), and negative land uses (such as garbage dumps). The result has been segregation - first within cities and more recently between them. Documenting changing patterns of segregation and their political mechanisms, Trounstine argues that city governments have pursued these policies to enhance the wealth and resources of white property owners at the expense of people of color and the poor. Contrary to leading theories of urban politics, local democracy has not functioned to represent all residents. The result is unequal access to fundamental local services - from schools, to safe neighborhoods, to clean water.

    • Explains the ways in which local governments fundamentally design race and class segregation, revealing that segregation is produced by political processes and is not simply the result of market mechanisms or individual choices
    • Develops a measure of segregation that accounts for different geographic patterns and changes over time, as the scale of segregation has expanded, with segregation now occurring as much between cities and within cities
    • Documents the ways in which local government policy and politics benefit white property owners at the expense of people of color and the poor, revealing underlying inequalities in the representative process
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    • Co-Winner, 2019 J. David Greenstone Book Award, Politics and History Section, American Political Science Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a terrific and timely book. Trounstine analyzes one of the pillars of structural racism and how it was built cumulatively to become something that on the surface looks like the workings of a color-free market. While big outcomes seldom derive solely from a single factor, Trounstine does a superb job of placing the political dominance of white homeownership in a long and consequential directory.' Clarence Stone, Research Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, The George Washington University

    'Segregation by Design is one of the best books on urban politics in years. Trounstine takes on fundamental issues of segregation and inequality across cities and shows how policies meant to guarantee equal access to public services have often had perverse consequences. The book is beautifully written, erudite, and interesting on virtually every page. We need more books like this.' Christopher Berry, William J. and Alicia Townsend Friedman Professor, University of Chicago

    'Trounstine's effective use of primary and secondary historical evidence and a wide range of quantitative data and methods results in a convincing argument about the role of local government actors in generating residential segregation. This book is a compelling and important contribution to the large literature on the causes and consequences of geographic segregation in the US.' Elisabeth R. Gerber, Jack L. Walker, Jr Professor of Public Policy, Associate Dean, Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan

    'Trounstine fills an enormous hole in our understanding of how segregation evolved in the United States.' J. Eric Oliver, University of Chicago

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 2019
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108454988
    • length: 282 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 16 mm
    • weight: 0.42kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. A theory of segregation by design
    3. Protecting investments: segregation and the development of the metropolis
    4. Engineering enclaves: how local governments produce segregation
    5. Living on the wrong side of the tracks: inequality in public goods provision, 1900–1940
    6. Cracks in the foundation: losing control over protected neighborhoods
    7. Segregation's negative consequences
    8. Locking in segregation through suburban control
    9. The polarized nation that segregation built
    10. Concluding thoughts and new designs

  • Author

    Jessica Trounstine, University of California, Merced
    Jessica Trounstine is Associate Professor of Political Science at University of California, Merced. She is the author of Political Monopolies in American Cities: The Rise and Fall of Bosses and Reformers (2008), which won the American Political Science Association's (APSA) Prize for Best Book on Urban Politics. Trounstine served as President of the Urban and Local Politics Section of APSA from 2014–2015. Her research examines subnational politics and the process and quality of representation.


    • Co-Winner, 2019 J. David Greenstone Book Award, Politics and History Section, American Political Science Association
    • Winner, 2020 Best Book in the Field of Urban Affairs, Urban Affairs Association

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