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Hometown Inequality: Race, Class, and Representation in American Local Politics, Brian F. Schaffner, Jesse H. Rhodes and Raymond J. La Raja

Reviewed by Katherine Levine Einstein

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The 2020 murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer shone a spotlight on deep and long-standing racial inequality in American cities. Protests sprang up across the country, pushing against the impunity with which police officers could take black lives—and face little to no consequence for their actions. These events underscored a critical political question: why have the interests and welfare of black people—and non-white people more generally—been largely marginalized by local governments?

Political scientists Brian F. Schaffner, Jesse H. Rhodes, and Raymond J. La Raja tackle this important question using sweeping data on voter and politician preferences across hundreds of diverse communities. Unlike previous studies of local political preferences and representation, which have largely relied on surveys and aggregated vote returns, their book uses the Catalist database to estimate ideological preferences by race with unprecedented precision. Juxtaposing these data with municipal institutional configurations, they explore the match between residents’ ideological preferences and their political representatives, and how local institutions shape the quality of representation. The Catalist database contains detailed records on more than 240 million American adul

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