Theses Master's

Piloting Participatory Budgeting: An Examination of Social Capital, Well-Being, and Public Good Provision in New York City

Hurlbut, Allison Blythe

Participatory budgeting places the citizen in the role of the planner in an effort to improve public good provision and quality of life when resources are scarce. The process was instituted in New York City during a time when American citizens experienced increased inequality and a desire for more transparency in government. This case study is an examination of the pilot participatory budgeting process that was implemented in four New York City council districts from 2011 to 2012. An analysis of neighborhood assembly survey, nonparticipant observation, and project idea data suggest: 1. participatory budgeting can increase social capital; 2. it is unclear how much participatory budgeting affects the health and well-being of the community when such a small number of each community participated; 3. in general the participants already had a higher level of social capital entering the process; 4. inequality in social capital is evident when considering the public goods the residents are requesting; and 5. participatory budgeting risks maintaining or worsening inequality by empowering the powerful and not the disadvantaged. While social capital can work through public good provision to improve health and well-being, the unequal distribution of it may not help the people who need it the most. Ultimately, we must commit to being a just city by creating and implementing an overall equitable view, reconsidering the public goods and amenities allocation process, and focusing on social inclusion within our communities.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Lowe, Jeffrey S.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 22, 2012