Cities are central to prosperity: they are hubs of innovation and growth. Yet the economic vitality of wealthy cities is marred by persistent and pervasive inequality. In his new book Unequal Cities, economist Richard McGahey argues that deeply entrenched anti-urban policies and politics limit cities’ options to address inequality. Many factors—structural racism, suburban subsidies, regional government fragmentation, the hostility of state legislatures, and federal policy—contribute to an unequal status quo that underfunds cities while preventing them from pursuing fairer outcomes.
Drawing on economic and historical analysis as well as his extensive experience in government and philanthropy, McGahey examines the failures of public policy and conventional economic wisdom that have led to the neglect of American cities. Case studies of New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles trace how attempts to achieve greater equity foundered because of the fiscal and political constraints. Shedding light on the forces that produced today’s dysfunction and disparities, Unequal Cities provides timely policy prescriptions to promote both growth and equity.
Richard McGahey is an economist and senior fellow at the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis and the Institute on Race, Power, and Political Economy, both within The New School. He served as executive director of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, assistant secretary for policy at the U.S. Department of Labor, and in senior governmental positions in New York State and New York City. McGahey was director of impact assessment and a program officer for economic development at the Ford Foundation.