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Working Paper Series

City Policies, City Interests:  An Alternative Theory of Interest Group Systems


  • Sarah F. Anzia, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley


  • Goldman School of Public Policy Working Paper (August 2015)


To understand the extent to which interest groups are active in politics—and which groups are active, under what conditions—I argue that we should start by focusing on the policies governments make.  I use such an approach, which Hacker and Pierson (2014) call a “policy-focused approach,” to develop hypotheses about how the amount of interest group involvement in city politics varies with city characteristics, as well as hypotheses about how the kinds of interest groups that are active depends on group- and city-level factors.  I test these hypotheses using data from a survey of elected officials in over 500 U.S. municipal governments, providing the first-ever bird’s-eye view of interest group activity in a diverse set of American cities.  My findings reveal that the size and composition of city interest group systems vary in ways consistent with my hypotheses, demonstrating the promise of this theoretical approach.   

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Last updated on 08/20/2015