Does Property Ownership Lead to Participation inLocal Politics? Evidence from Property Records andMeeting Minutes
Homeowners and renters have participated in politics at different rates throughout American history, but does becoming a property owner motivate an individual to access forms of political participation likely to affect policy? I combine deed-level property ownership records in California and Texas with an original dataset on individual comments in local city council meetings to study the role of property ownership in shaping costly forms of political behavior. I document inequalities in who participatesat city council meetings: while homeowners are over-represented in some areas, theyare under-represented in others. I also link property records to individual-level contri-bution records and administrative voter files and find that becoming a property ownerincreases an individual’s political activity. Over and above voting in local elections, property ownership motivates individuals to participate in more costly ways: they become more likely to participate in local city council meetings and donate to candidates in state and federal elections. These findings illustrate how the financial stakes thataccompany homeownership lead property owners to become active in local politics.