Quarterly Journal of Political Science > Vol 19 > Issue 3

Unequal Responsiveness in City Service Delivery: Evidence from 42 Million 311 Calls

Brian T. Hamel, Department of Political Science, University of North Texas, USA, Brian.Hamel@unt.edu , Derek E. Holliday, Polarization Research Lab and Department of Political Science, Stanford University, USA, dhollida@stanford.edu
Suggested Citation
Brian T. Hamel and Derek E. Holliday (2024), "Unequal Responsiveness in City Service Delivery: Evidence from 42 Million 311 Calls", Quarterly Journal of Political Science: Vol. 19: No. 3, pp 243-274. http://dx.doi.org/10.1561/100.00022089

Publication Date: 10 Jun 2024
© 2024 B. T. Hamel and D. E. Holliday
Public administration,  Public policy,  Representation,  Urban politics
Urban politicsresponsiveness311unequal representation


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In this article:
Inequalities in Local Public Goods Provision 
Two Pathways to Unequal Responsiveness 
Robustness Checks 
Exploring Mechanisms Behind Across-Service Inequalities 
Discussion and Conclusion 


We assess unequal responsiveness to citizen demands for municipal goods and services using a dataset of about 42 million 311 requests from 13 large cities between 2011 and 2019. We report three findings. First, we find no evidence that cities respond to requests from whiter and more affluent neighborhoods faster than they do the same type of request from less white and affluent neighborhoods, even after accounting for proxies of neighborhood need. On average, however, white, rich neighborhoods receive faster responses to their calls than non-white, poor neighborhoods. Additional analyses suggest that these disparities may not reflect deliberate bias on the part of cities in favor of the needs of whites and the rich, but rather that non-white and poor neighborhoods tend to ask for services that require more time and resources for the city to respond to. Our paper provides the most comprehensive and contemporary analysis to date of inequalities in U.S. city service delivery.