Representation in American Cities: Who Runs for Mayor and Who Wins?

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3 Scopus citations


Business leaders emerge as key players in canonical accounts of urban politics, but data limitations have hampered efforts to quantify their role in city politics. Drawing on an original dataset that includes gender, race, occupational, and political experience for over 3,500 mayoral candidates from 259 cities over fifty years, I document who runs for office and who serves as mayor, with a focus on candidates who are business owners and executives. Overall, the data indicate that mayors tend to be White and male with prior political experience and white-collar careers. Business owners and executives account for nearly one-third of the candidates in the sample, but I find no indication that they win elections at higher rates than other candidates overall. However, my results do suggest that business owners and executives have better electoral prospects in more conservative cities, especially those that hold nonpartisan elections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)635-670
Number of pages36
JournalUrban Affairs Review
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


  • local elections
  • mayors
  • representation


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