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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy and Management


Denise Rousseau


Recent scholarship from political science, urban studies, and sociology conceptualizes the city as a space of decentralized democracy – a view emphasizing localization, participation, difference, and anti-hierarchical organizational form. Instead of conceiving the city as a place of atomized individuals and a locale for market exchange, this alternative framework recognizes the city‘s role as ―civitas‖ – a ―space of active democratic citizenship‖ and ―full human realization‖ based on open and free encounter and exchange with difference. The current research emerges from and fills a need within this perspective by examining how local urban contexts undergird and bolster new movement organizations (NMOs). Theory elaborates how urban density, land-use mix, housing age diversity, and connectivity generate and enable interaction with the social diversity fundamental to decentralized and anti-hierarchical NMOs. In addition, theory also examines how urban walking mediates the relationships between these urban contextual traits and NMOs.

Linear regression is used to assess the direct effects of density, connectivity, land-use mix, and urban walking on NMO activity (measured as human rights, environmental, and social advocacy groups), and the Sobel test is employed to assess mediation. Data to measure the NMO dependent variable come from the 2007 ZIP Code Business Patterns, while urban contextual independent variables and socio-economic and demographic measures are drawn primarily from the 2000 U.S. Census. Regressions at the ZCTA level show that NMO activity is positively predicted by density, connectivity, and housing age diversity. Furthermore, Sobel tests indicate that walking mediates the relationships that NMOs have with density, connectivity, and land-use-mix. Several additional analyses are also performed. First, Guidestar Form 990 data are employed to validate the NMO dependent variable. Second, inclusion of an ideology measure in the regression estimations shows that the relationships of interest are not confounded by ―liberalism‖. Third, cross-lagged regressions are employed to investigate ―self-selection‖ effects. Finally, counterfactual cases are explored by estimating regressions with several alternative dependent variables. While coefficients on the independent variables of interest are typically larger and more often in the predicted direction when NMOs are employed as the dependent variable, results for several of the alternative dependent variables shed light on the main results by showing that urban contexts are conducive to specific kinds of activity.

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