Lecture "City Size and Public Service Access: Evidence from Brazil, India, and Indonesia"
Alison Post (University of California, Berkeley)
Date: December 10, 2019 (Tuesday) 18:00-19:30 (17:30 Open)

Venue: Room 549, Akamon General Research Building, Hongo Campus, University of Tokyo
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Speaker: Alison Post (Department of Political Science and Global Metropolitan Studies, UC Berkeley)

Abstract: According to U.N. projections, the bulk of population growth over the next two decades will occur in small and medium-sized cities in low and middle-income countries. To understand the implications of rapid urbanization in the Global South, it is therefore crucial to examine how city size affects public goods provision. The fiscal federalism and decentralization literatures suggest that larger cities often deliver better public goods more effectively because of scale economies. Yet small cities exhibit higher rates of access to basic health and education services in Brazil, India, and Indonesia according to data analysis we present here. Why is this the case? Building on modernization theory and models from urban economics, we argue that citizens in smaller cities prioritize investments in basic health and education facilities because there are few low-cost substitutes for government offerings, and because they face few characteristically “urban” problems, such as congestion and insecurity. Residents of larger cities, in contrast, prioritize investment in a wider set of policy areas because they experience more negative externalities from urban growth and can turn to a larger supply of non-state providers of basic social services. Moreover, public officials in smaller cities find it easier to earn political returns for investments in “divisible” infrastructure for service delivery, such as schools and clinics, because they can coordinate lobbying and credit-claiming more effectively than politicians in larger cities. We illustrate the mechanisms underlying these differences across policy areas through cross-sectional data analysis and paired comparison of representative cities of different sizes in Brazil, and with shadow cases from Indonesia. Our analysis underscores how non-state service provision affects the governmental provision of local public goods.

Speaker Bio: Alison E. Post is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Global Metropolitan Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She also serves as the Co-Director of the Global Metropolitan Studies Program at Berkeley. Her research lies at the intersection of comparative urban politics and comparative political economy, focusing on Latin America and the developing world more broadly. It examines the political and institutional factors affecting vital urban services. Published and ongoing research focuses on the politics of regulation and business-government relations, decentralization, welfare state politics, and the effects of increasing government transparency. She is the author of Foreign and Domestic Investment in Argentina: The Politics of Privatized Infrastructure (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and articles in the Annual Review of Political Science, Comparative Politics, Governance, Perspectives on Politics, Politics & Society, Studies in Comparative International Development, World Development, and other outlets. She has been named a Clarence Stone Scholar (an early career award) by the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, and received U.C. Berkeley's campus-wide Carol D. Soc award for mentoring graduate students.
About Professor Post