Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Economics

Committee Chair

Jennifer Alix-Garcia

Commitee Members

Douglas Dalenberg, Peter Koehn


Civic Participation, Inequality, Political Participation


University of Montana


This study considers the impact of community-level inequality of income and education on the ways individuals participate in local government and community development activities. It adapts the standard identity-augmented utility model to demonstrate that, given the choice to participate or not to participate, increases in inequality can decrease overall group participation, and an individual's distance from the characteristics of an ideal community member can also decrease the benefits and likelihood of participation. The theory predicts, however, that increasing the responsiveness of civic bodies to input from citizens can mitigate the negative effects of inequality. Original survey data from a stratified random sample of over 680 Missoula households are then analyzed to test the implications of the theory. In Missoula, people have 3 participation options: not participating at all, participating alone (by writing letters or watching meetings on television), or participating in person. A multinomial logit model to estimate the probability of choosing a certain outcome shows that people living in neighborhoods characterized by high inequality are less likely to drop out, but more likely to participate alone. This effect is most pronounced under high educational inequality.



© Copyright 2007 Benjamin C. Harris