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Urban Armageddon or Politics as Usual? The Case of Municipal Civil Service Reform


Anirudh V. S. Ruhil is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago, 1007 West Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60607 (


For the better part of the twentieth century, the question of municipal reformism has drawn urban scholarship: Why do some cities change their governing arrangements while others do not? Focusing exclusively on merit systems, in this study I expose the political underpinnings of merit reform in American municipal history. A duration analysis of merit adoptions in a sample of 252 cities in the 1900–1940 period suggests that both state- (home rule status, state merit systems) and city-specific (at-large elections, term length, city size, percent foreign-born, regional location) factors largely determined when and where reform occurred.