Matt Gabel, a professor of political science in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, received a two-year $325,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study ways in which minority representation in local government can be achieved in the context of ongoing suburbanization and gentrification.
The grant will enable Gabel and his team to conduct a large-scale data collection effort combining population demographics, candidate characteristics, institutional structure and policy outcomes for 88 municipalities and 22 school districts from 1970 to the present in the St. Louis region. That information will be integrated into the St. Louis Data Dashboard, a user-friendly web interface available to researchers and the public.
The team also will conduct representative surveys of voters, elected officials and past candidates to identify the conditions under which minorities run for local office and are successful, as well as the conditions under which descriptive representation leads to substantive representation.
“As time-honored tools for protecting minority voting rights and representation are being invalidated by courts, these data will provide crucial evidence regarding new reform efforts relevant to many urban areas around the country,” Gabel said.
The project is a part of a larger initiative, The St. Louis Policy Initiative: Segregation, Public Health and Environmental Policy, supported by the Arts & Sciences Incubator for Transdisciplinary Futures. Through this multidisciplinary initiative, a diverse group of researchers is working on society’s most pressing policy challenges.
Research projects will explore relationships between racial segregation, political representation, housing policy, public health outcomes and environmental outcomes in the region. With the dashboard’s creation, the initiative also will serve as a bridge to other St. Louis-focused research projects, as well as research on urban politics more generally.