The politics and economics of local government fragmentation

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  • May 06, 2013

In a cute little analysis, Richard Florida and U of T’s Martin Prosperity Institute have mapped local government fragmentation by American state (see the map above). It is sobering to see that Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas have more local governments than all of Canada (over about 4,000). (It is unclear, however, whether they are including special-purpose local governments  in the total, or are only counting general-purpose municipal governments.)

More interesting, however, is their mapping of local governments per 100,000 residents. Vermont aside, we see that the residents of the Upper Midwest and Mountain states more local governments per capita than elsewhere. To my mind, this appears to be a collision of two effects: the 6-mile-by-6-mile survey township system platted out in the trans-Appalachian interior west in the early 19th century, which established the effective maximum territorial size of municipalities, combined with low population densities.



Intriguing is what they do next. A simple correlation analysis shows that states with more local governments per capita have lower average incomes, lower average wages, and a smaller high-tech sector, and were considerably more likely to vote Republican for president.

What I would like to see them do next is re-do the analysis at the metropolitan level, as this would separate out rural from urban local governments.


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