Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Roundtable: Cities Fighting Inequality
(Poverty and Income Policy)

Saturday, November 14, 2015: 1:45 PM-3:15 PM
Johnson I (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Roundtable Organizers:  Jacob Vigdor, University of Washington
Moderators:  John Buntin, Governing Magazine
Speakers:  Paul E. Peterson, Harvard University, Barbara Gault, Institute for Women's Policy Research, Lawrence Mishel, Economic Policy Institute and Jacob Vigdor, University of Washington

Across America, leaders of large cities have taken a variety of steps to combat inequality within their borders. Several cities enacted or moved to enact higher minimum wages in 2014, and as of early 2015 18 cities had passed paid sick days laws; concerns about housing affordability and worker benefits have also spurred action in many cases. Elected officials in cities whose electorates skew more liberal than the nation have emerged as leading proponents of more robust policy responses. The capacity of municipal governments to meaningfully address inequality may be limited, however, by their inability to regulate the flow of people and commerce across their borders. Recent bankruptcy filings in Detroit, Stockton, and other cities illustrate the potential limitations and hazards associated with local action. Cities that engage in redistribution, in particular, may risk alienating the voters expected to make contributions. On the other hand, cities that can boast of strong job quality benefits for workers, and family-friendly supports, such as paid leave, may be competitively positioned to attract skilled workers. Affluent voters who select to live in certain cities may be more willing to fund redistributive projects, but the absolute number of poor citizens who benefit may be small. This roundtable will focus on local efforts to combat inequality. Can it be done? Can these efforts amount to more than token actions? What are the best examples of systematic economic development and community planning efforts to view urban development through an over-arching lens of inequality reduction (comparable to health-impact analyses)? What has been the impact of actions taken to date? Can the strategies pursued in affluent cities like Seattle and San Francisco be replicated in communities with heavier concentrations of poverty? These questions and more will spur discussion spanning multiple ideological perspectives and incorporating both academics and practitioners.
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