Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Structure, agency, and the Kuznets Curve: Observations and implications for sustainability planning in U.S. cities
by Hanson, Mark Alan, Ph.D., University of Southern California, 2011, 151; 3466011
Abstract (Summary)

Sustainable development has emerged as an important paradigm of planning, and its economic, social, and environmental goals are being pursued in a growing number of settings. This dissertation considers the interplay of structure and agency as means to better understand sustainability planning efforts in U.S. cities. Drawing insight from Simon Kuznets' empiric work on the social and economic structure of developing countries (Kuznets 1955), this study investigates the possibility that Kuznetsian development can inform our thinking on sustainable city planning as well. Ordinary least squares regression models reveal the classic "Kuznets Curve" among data for U.S. cities, such that income inequality first rises then falls with economic growth. The strength of this relationship increases as several explanatory variables are added, notably educational attainment and labor skill of the general population, and also when segregation of residents within cities is considered. Whether or not a city has a sustainability initiative also contributes significantly to the relationship. These results suggest that Kuznetsian development reasonably describes the experience of U.S. cities, and the concept provides a framework for studying structure and agency related to sustainable development in this setting. A three-category typology of cities is offered such that a given city's type is determined by its position along the curve. The typology is used to select and investigate cities for clues about why some of the wealthier cities in the U.S. that have well-recognized sustainability initiatives appear to be "making the turn" toward greater equality of income (a social goal of sustainable development) while others may be at risk of "missing the turn." Findings of this study suggest that missing the turn may be explained by a governing elite that has effectively insulated itself from the influence of middle and lower class citizens in these cities, while making the turn appears to associate with cities' efforts to provide for greater public involvement in governance, and possibly through the efforts of a "progressive middle class regime" (Stone 1986) to promote social programs in these cities. Implications for sustainable development theory and policy are discussed, and directions for further research are suggested.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Banerjee, Tridib
Commitee: Robertson, Peter, Tierney, Bill
School: University of Southern California
Department: Policy, Planning and Development
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/10, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Political science, Sustainability, Urban planning
Keywords: Agency, Cities, City planning, Kuznets curve, Planning, Structure, Sustainability, United States
Publication Number: 3466011
ISBN: 9781124787541
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