Comparisons Among Three Diverse Cities

San Jose, California, Seattle, Washington, and St. Louis, Missouri

by Barbara R. Williams


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Description of RAND's comparative urban research program, emphasizing comparisons and problems that emerged in a study of three cities. The intent of the research was to create a framework to guide policy decisions at all levels of government. Although never completely tested because of insufficient funds, the approach was (1) to begin with a problem or issue orientation in each city (developed from informal interviews with local decisionmakers), and (2) to discover for whom it was a problem and how all components of the metropolitan system — its politics, economy, location, population — operate so as to perpetrate that problem or might operate to deflect it. Comparisons were drawn regarding (1) policies with major urban impacts, (2) constraints on local officials due to powerful exogenous shocks from the market and decisions of higher-level governments, and (3) the concerns of jurisdictions versus those of individual households. (Speech delivered at the American Real Estate and Urban Economics Association Meetings, Washington, D.C., May 23, 1974.)

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