The political will to pursue redistributive economic policies is geographically concentrated. Recent years have seen local governments pass laws imposing new worker protections, higher minimum wages, regulations promoting the construction of lower-cost housing, and most recently taxes on high executive compensation. The traditional concern with local redistribution has been sustainability: when cities tax the rich to support the poor, the rich have the option to move to the suburbs.
This narrative has been applied to mid-century American cities. As cities become wealthier and the poor suburbanize, new concerns arise: cities appear to be adopting pro-poor policies only after most of the poor have been priced out of them, and the means of fighting inequality have been privatized -- compared to government-funded income support, a high minimum wage is worthless for those who cannot find work. This lecture will consider the prospects of this new urban agenda.
Jacob Vigdor is the Daniel J. Evans Professor of Public Policy and Government at the University of Washington. He is also a research affiliate at UC Irvine's Economic Self-Sufficiency Policy Research Institute. He is in the midst of a study at the University of Washington that examines the impact of the Seattle Minimum Wage ordinance on labor market outcomes.