Toward a positive theory of public participation in government: Variations in New York City's participatory budgeting

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6 Scopus citations


Normative research on public participation in government related to desirable amounts and modes of participation has been flourishing. However, positive research explaining variations in real-world participation processes, while gaining momentum, is still thin and fragmented. This article aims to further the positive perspective by examining differences in participatory budgeting (PB) and the reasons for these differences in six New York City council districts based on fieldwork and secondary sources. The evidence suggests that district offices were invested in PB to gain strategic advantages, such as answering calls for political renewal, recovering from a mismanagement scandal, and signaling progressive values. Similarly, civil society organizations steered their resources toward PB only if they were interested in agenda items and in doing work with as opposed to against public officials. In the end, this study discusses implications for positive research and possible external interventions to achieve more even participation standards.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)841-858
Number of pages18
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank Bob Bifulco, Tina Nabatchi, Julia Carboni, and conference participants at the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research, the American Society for Public Administration Conference, the Midwest Political Science Association Conference, the Summer Institute of Civic Studies, the Association for Budgeting and Financial Management Conference, and the Consortium on Collaborative Governance Emerging Scholars Workshop. The Roscoe Martin Fund and the Maxwell School Public Administration and International Affairs Department at the Syracuse University helped support fieldwork expenses. I am especially grateful to all the PB NYC coordinators and participants who graciously let me participate in the process and talked with me.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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