Shifting Priorities: Participatory Budgeting in New York City
July 21, 2020
The research report “Shifting Priorities: Participatory Budgeting in New York City is Associated with Increased Investment in Schools, Street and Traffic Improvements, and Public Housing” focuses on New York City where, since 2011, an increasing number of city council members have used participatory budgeting (PB) to empower their constituents to decide how to spend millions of dollars every year. By comparing council members’ spending before and after they started using PB, the research shows that spending priorities do in fact shift when residents play a direct role in budgeting. The new research points to public spending interests at a moment when city budgets are under scrutiny.
The research finds that when New York City council districts adopted PB, greater proportions of their discretionary capital budgets were allocated to schools, streets and traffic improvements and public housing and smaller proportions were allocated to parks and recreation projects and to housing preservation and development. The peer-reviewed findings are published in an article that appears in issue 42.2 of New Political Science.
Supported by a grant from Democracy Fund, the team of researchers from the Berlin School of Economics and Law, Public Agenda and New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development are among the first to examine whether and how PB shifts spending priorities in the United States. Specifically, they found that when a New York City council district adopted PB, it spent on average about $300,000 more per year on schools, about $250,000 more per year on public housing, and about $100,000 more per year on street and traffic improvements.