Separate, Unequal, and Ignored? Interjurisdictional Competition and the Budgetary Choices of Poor and Affluent Municipalities


  • Benedict S. Jimenez

    1. Northeastern University
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    • Benedict S. Jimenez is assistant professor at Northeastern University in Boston. His research focuses on urban public fi nance and management. He received the 2013 Paul A. Volcker Junior Scholar Research Award from the American Political Science Association for his research on municipal fi scal retrenchment and recovery. His studies on the roles of citizens and strategic management in city fi scal retrenchment have been published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory and American Review of Public Administration. E-mail:


The fundamental value underlying the design of a fragmented system of local governance is consumer sovereignty. This system functions as a market-like arrangement providing citizen-consumers a choice of jurisdictions that offer different bundles of public services and taxes. However, the same choice also can facilitate class-based population sorting, creating regions where fiscally wealthy jurisdictions coexist with impoverished ones. Some argue that the public market enhances the power of all consumers, whether poor or rich. Even if the poor are concentrated in some jurisdictions, they can exercise their voice to ensure that their government responds to their service needs. But does the voice of the poor matter as much as the voice of the rich in determining service levels in the local public market? Comparing the budgetary choices in poor and affluent municipalities, this article shows that in highly fragmented regions, some municipal services are provided the least in communities where they are needed the most.