A multiplex theory of urban service distribution: The case of school expenditures

Aaron M. Pallas, Jennifer L. Jennings

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The literature on urban service delivery has crystallized into two key theoretical perspectives, one emphasizing agency and interests and the other structure and bureaucracy. These perspectives typically do not allow for the possibility that explanations of the origins of variability in the distribution of urban services might differ from explanations of the persistence of such variability. In this article, the authors articulate a multiplex, longitudinal model of urban service distribution, emphasizing the contributions of multiplex funding streams and multiple layers of bureaucracy, bureaucratic discretion, and path dependency to the model. Drawing on data on school building-level expenditures in New York City over six years, the authors provide new evidence on the distribution of expenditures on public education in New York City. They find that there is substantial year-to-year stability in per-pupil expenditures, that expenditures are responsive to the social and economic characteristics of clients at varying levels of the education system, and that allocation decisions made at a given level of the system may either amplify or diminish the distributional consequences of allocation decisions made at a higher level of the system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)608-643
Number of pages36
JournalUrban Affairs Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


  • Bureaucratic decision making
  • Path dependency
  • Public education
  • Urban service distribution


Dive into the research topics of 'A multiplex theory of urban service distribution: The case of school expenditures'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this