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Communities, Race, and Talk: An Analysis of the Occurrence of Civic Intergroup Dialogue Programs


Katherine Cramer Walsh is assistant professor of political science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706.


Why do communities differ in the strategies they adopt to address the challenges of interracial relations? In this article, I ask specifically why cities choose to pursue or forego provision of a particular type of social service, civic intergroup dialogue programs on race. I test arguments that such choices arise in response to post-materialist values, in response to conditions of racial injustice, and in communities with larger stores of existing resident-government linkages. The empirical results support the resident-government linkages model, but support the post-materialist model only among high-income cities, while supporting the social justice model particularly among low-income cities. The results suggest that community decisions to pursue dialogue are driven by the needs of marginalized racial groups as much as, if not more than, the desire among affluent community members to engage in talk about other racial cultures.