Who Participates in Local Government? Evidence from Meeting Minutes
Scholars and policymakers have identified neighborhood activism and participation as a valuable source of policy information and civic engagement. Yet, these venues may be biasing policy discussions in favor of an unrepresentative group of individuals. Using the case of housing policy, we compile a novel data set on all citizen participants in Planning and Zoning Board meetings concerning the development of multiple housing units in 97 Massachusetts cities and towns. We match these thousands of individuals to the Massachusetts voter file to descriptively investigate local political participation. We find that individuals who are older, male, longtime residents, voters in local elections, and homeowners are significantly more likely to participate in these meetings. These individuals are overwhelmingly likely to oppose new housing construction, and cite a wide variety of reasons. These participatory inequalities have important policy implications and may be contributing to rising housing costs.
Katherine Levine Einstein, Maxwell Palmer, and David Glick