A multiplex theory of urban service distribution: The case of school expenditures

Aaron M. Pallas, Jennifer L. Jennings

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    The literature on urban service delivery has crystallized into two key theoretical perspectives, one emphasizing agency and interests and the other structure and bureaucracy. These perspectives typically do not allow for the possibility that explanations of the origins of variability in the distribution of urban services might differ from explanations of the persistence of such variability. In this article, the authors articulate a multiplex, longitudinal model of urban service distribution, emphasizing the contributions of multiplex funding streams and multiple layers of bureaucracy, bureaucratic discretion, and path dependency to the model. Drawing on data on school building-level expenditures in New York City over six years, the authors provide new evidence on the distribution of expenditures on public education in New York City. They find that there is substantial year-to-year stability in per-pupil expenditures, that expenditures are responsive to the social and economic characteristics of clients at varying levels of the education system, and that allocation decisions made at a given level of the system may either amplify or diminish the distributional consequences of allocation decisions made at a higher level of the system.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)608-643
    Number of pages36
    JournalUrban Affairs Review
    Volume45
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    StatePublished - May 1 2010

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    Keywords

    • Bureaucratic decision making
    • Path dependency
    • Public education
    • Urban service distribution

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science
    • Urban Studies

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