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City Limits F First Paperback Edition Used Edition

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0226662930
ISBN-10: 0226662934
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Paul E. Peterson is professor of Government at Harvard University. He is the coauthor of Race and Authority in Urban Politics and the author of School Politics, Chicago Style and The Politics of School Reform, 1870-1940. All are published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; F First Paperback Edition Used edition (July 15, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226662934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226662930
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #361,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government and Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and Editor-In-Chief of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research.

Peterson is a former director of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and of the Governmental Studies Program at the Brookings Institution. He received his Ph. D. in political science from the University of Chicago. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Education, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the German Marshall Foundation, and the Center for Study in the Behavioral Sciences.

He is the author of the book, Saving Schools: From Horace Mann to Virtual Learning (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010). For more information see

He is also the author or editor of numerous other publications including the following:

* School Choice International: Exploring public private partnerships (co-editor with Rajashri Chakrabarti)
* School Money Trials: The Legal Pursuit of Educational Adequacy (co-editor with Martin R. West)
* Reforming Education in Florida: A Study Prepared by the Koret Task Force on K-12 Education (editor)
* The Education Gap: Vouchers and Urban Schools (with William G. Howell)
* Generational Change: Closing the Test Score Gap (editor)
* No Child Left Behind? The Politics and Practice of School Accountability (co-editor with Martin R. West)
* The Future of School Choice (editor)
* Our Schools and our Future (editor)
* City Limits
* The Urban Underclass (co-edited with Christopher Jencks)
* Price of Federalism
* Welfare Magnets (with Mark C. Rom)
* The New American Democracy (with Morris P. Fiorina, Bertram Johnson, and William G. Mayer)

Four of his books have received major awards from the American Political Science Association. Most recently, he was awarded the Martha Derthick Best Book Award for The Price of Federalism. The award is presented to the author of a book published at least ten years ago that has made a lasting contribution to the study of federalism and intergovernmental relations.

Peterson is a member of the independent review panel advising the Department of Education's evaluation of the No Child Left Behind law and a member of the Hoover Institution's Koret Task Force of K-12 Education at Stanford University. The Editorial Projects in Education Research Center reported that Peterson's studies on school choice and vouchers were among the country's most influential studies of education policy.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John C. Mckee on April 6, 2004
Format: Paperback
Paul Peterson makes an obvious point: there are limits to the service obligations cities can safely take on. However, it is substantially more complex than that commonsensical point.
Cities face a dilemma, they must balance the requirements they have to provide services with the tax loads they can adequately impose on their citizens. Provide too little in the way of services and the quality of life in the city suffers. Provide too many or too varied a service mix and the taxing requirements to fund these services will drive the productive population beyond the physical limits of the city.
Cities must provide services to the poor. If they do not, the social pathologies of the poor then drive down the attractiveness of the city as a place for entrepreneurial activity. So cities must spend and tax productive populations (those consuming services in a negative ratio to the taxes they contribute) in order to fund these services. However, tax too much and provide too many services and the productive populations will exit the city to more tax friendly areas. Due to the spatial limits of cities, cities cannot extend their taxing reach. Thus cities must provide the bare essentials and encourage economic growth.
The solution to the dilemma is to allow the federal government to provide the majority of redistributive (aid to the poor) services and focus, as a city, on the provision of distributive (road repair, police) and regulatory services (health, sanitation).
Not a ringing cry to help your fellow man, but a cogent analysis of the fiscal demands and limitations facing urban America.
Urbanists, planners and public administration scholars will encounter this book somewhere in their professional training.
John C. McKee
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By David Houvenagle on April 6, 2008
Format: Paperback
This is an important book for people interested in urban studies to read. It has made some people angry (see Imbroscio, 2003 for more details), but it deserves to be read to get a grounding in Urban Political theory. It discusses why local politics are different. It explains the types of policies cities create (developmental, allocation, and redistributive). It discusses why cities do not generally get into the welfare policy business.
Some believe that Peterson's "Unitary" interest of cities is incorrect in that politics do matter and that cities do not just have one interest of developmental politics. Nevertheless, Peterson's theory is tight, well-reasoned and more correct than it is incorrect.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
A terrific thought-provoking work. I am not sure that its key points are valid, but the work gets one to thinking about the limits of cities' power. The central point is pretty simple. Taxpayers will do a cost-benefit analysis of how their tax dollars are being used. If they see benefits to themselves of how their tax dollars are employed, they will stay. If they do not approve, they will vote with their feet and leave, thus reducing the community's tax base. The effect on local communities? They'll want to keep their tax base as happy as they can.

One implication? No redistributive policy, where the taxes of those who make up the major part of the tax base are used to assist those who have few resources. On the other hand, the tax base would be quite pleased to see their taxes used for purposes that they believe would benefit them.

In the end, cities' power is "limited" by the desire to please the tax base. Actual data for this thesis are somewhat mixed. Again, though, a very thought-provoking work. . . .
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3 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mark Greenbaum on July 18, 2003
Format: Paperback
I read this book while an undergraduate when I took a course in urban politics. Without doubt, it is the worst "academic" book I have ever read. Prof. Peterson's writing is brutally hard to follow. Granted, the topic is quite dry, but the author's writing makes it even worse. When I was finished, I had learned absolutely nothing, having wasted many hours of my life I shall never get back. Prof. Peterson would do well to learn from colleagues Lowi and Shefter how to write on dry topics with some panache.
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1 of 30 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 25, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Exceptional analysis of city limits
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