Transforming Cities: Does Urbanization Promote Democratic Change?

Could urbanization lead to more democracy and better government for the mega-cities of the developing world? This paper reviews three channels through which urbanization may generate political change. First, cities facilitate coordinated public action and enhance the effectiveness of uprisings. Second, cities may increase the demand for democracy relative to dictatorship. Third, cities may engender the development of “civic capital” which enables citizens to improve their own institutions. History and empirics provide significant support for the first channel, but less evidence exists for the others. Urbanization may improve the quality of poor-world governments, but more research is needed to draw that conclusion. 



This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.

Edward L. Glaeser and Bryce Millett Steinberg

Gateway Fields

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