Year of Publication

2012

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Graduate School

Department

Public Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Edward T. Jennings

Abstract

American cities have proliferated in the post-War era. More than 2,000 new cities were founded between 1950 and 2000. While the history of the local government boom has been documented, research into urban fragmentation has explored why there is no consolidation of metropolitan areas rather than exploring why Americans chose fragmentation initially.

This dissertation proposes that individuals create new jurisdictions because individuals prefer to have governments which give them the services individuals desire, even if they could have similar (but not perfect) services cheaper in a larger jurisdiction. Individuals, however, must balance the benefit they get from better fitting cities with the price they must pay to live within the small cities.

In the first part of the dissertation, I synthesize the literatures on urban governance and fragmentation with the literature on interest groups. This synthesis builds the argument for conceiving cities as interest groups and contributes a theory of urban behavior as the behavior of organized interest groups. I argue that urban fragmentation should exist anywhere there are urban areas –not only metropolises –and that fragmentation is produced by diversity in the population and constrained by the resources available for the formation of cities.

In the second part of the dissertation, I analyze the fragmentation of both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas to determine what drives fragmentation. I use Poisson regression on 2-period panel data from 1992 and 2002 collected from various public sources. I find that there are differences in the forms of fragmentation in the metropolis and the non-metropolis. In both types of urban settlement, fragmentation is driven by political and population diversity and available resources for forming cities. Legal authority and intergovernmental revenue are particularly important.

Finally, I turn my attention to cities’ interactions with each other. I use a survey of Kentucky mayors, fielded with the Kentucky League of Cities, to determine why mayors of different cities to communicate with each other. Using specialized network methods I find that mayor-to-mayor contact is not based on goal and interest similarities as expected, but rather depends on sharing an organization which encourages communication –an Area Development District.

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