Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy > Vol 1 > Issue 3

Local Political Economy: The State of the Field: Past, Present, and Future

Jessica Trounstine, University of California, Merced, USA,
Suggested Citation
Jessica Trounstine (2020), "Local Political Economy: The State of the Field: Past, Present, and Future", Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy: Vol. 1: No. 3, pp 319-340.

Publication Date: 24 Aug 2020
© 2020 J. Trounstine
Electoral institutions,  Urban politics
Local governmenturban politicsfederalisminstitutions


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In this article:
Formal Institutional Variation 
Institutional Fragmentation 
Informal Institutions 
Frontiers of Knowledge 


Studying local politics is key to answering fundamental questions of who gets what, how, and when in the United States. And understanding institutions — the rules and structures that shape the aggregation of preferences and political outcomes — is crucial to this endeavor. In part this is because local governments are not sovereign in the federal structure and so naturally, studying cities requires understanding the context in which they are embedded. But it is also because cities feature endless variation in their formal and informal governing arrangements. These institutional differences affect representation, accountability, and the provision of public goods and services. In this article, I offer an overview of what we know about the political economy of subnational governments, discuss some of the frontiers of knowledge still to be discovered, and put forth a plea for the importance of answering political economy questions at the local level. I argue that studying local institutional variation advances our understanding of institutional development, maintenance, and consequences more generally.



Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy, Volume 1, Issue 3 Special issue - Frontiers in Political Economy
See the other articles that are part of this special issue.