Municipal councils Research: The fewer delegates living in the vicinity are more likely to close a neighborhood school

According to a recent study, the representativeness of a neighborhood in the municipal council affects the level of service in that neighborhood.

Low education and income level Neighborhoods are under-represented in municipal councils, according to a study by Aalto University, the University of Turku and the State Economic Research Center (VATT).

Assistant Professor of Urban Economics at Aalto University Tuukka Saarimaa According to him, the under-representation is probably due to the lower turnout of low-income people and the fact that candidates in their own neighborhood are often voted in municipal elections.

“This is a new and interesting finding, because the Finnish electoral system does not in itself force you to vote for a candidate in your own region, and because such voting behavior creates incentives for delegates to direct public funds to their own neighborhoods,” Saarimaa says in a VATT press release.

In the study it also became clear that the representativeness of neighborhoods in the municipal council affects the service levels of neighborhoods. This was clarified by examining the abolition of schools. The fewer councilors in the municipal council lived in the vicinity of the school, the more likely it was to be abolished during the election period.

According to the study, school closure leads to so-called selective migration, in which high-income residents move out of the neighborhood. As a result, regional inequality in municipal councils may increase further, according to the study.

“Based on our research, low-income neighborhoods are under-represented in municipal councils. Thus, these residential areas play the role of sub-respondent when the service network is pruned. Weak public services exacerbate regional segregation and the cycle of impoverishment of low-income neighborhoods is complete, ”says VATT specialist Oskari Harjunen in the bulletin.

The research was based on the residences of municipal candidates and the locations and closures of schools for the three council terms from 2005 to 2017.

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