Jessica Luce Trounstine

Professor of Political Science, Vanderbilt University
Chapter Member: Tennessee SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Jessica

Trounstine's research focuses on inequalities in politics and voting. Overarching themes in her writings include the role of race and class in politics, and representation in voting and the election process.



County-Level Segregation and Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Outcomes

  • Sidra Goldman-Mellor

How Local Policies Create and Enforce Segregation

In the News

Quoted by Emily Badger in "The Bipartisan Cry of 'Not in My Backyard'," The New York Times, August 21, 2018.
Quoted by Tyler Reny and Sayu Bhojwani in "Minority Representation Gaps, by the Numbers," Washington Post, October 22, 2014.
Research discussed by Seth Masket, in "Ferguson is a Serious Outlier," Pacific Standard, January 18, 2014.


"The Provision of Local Public Goods in Diverse Communities" (with Jacob Rugh). Journal of Politics 73, no. 4 (2011): 1038-1050.

Demonstrates that strategic politicians encourage cooperation using a new data set on more than 3,000 municipal bond elections. Shows that diverse communities see fewer bond elections, but that the bonds proposed are larger and pass at higher rates. Argues that diverse cities tend to offer voters bonds with more spending categories and are more likely to hold referenda during general elections, and as a result, diverse cities do just as well as homogenous cities in issuing voter-authorized debt. Concludes that political elites perform an important mediating function in the generation of public goods.

"Electoral Institutions, Gender Stereotypes, and Women's Local Representation" (with Melody Crowder-Meyer and Shana Kushner Gadarian). Parties, Groups, and Identities 3, no. 2 (2015): 318-334.

Utilizes a decade of candidate-level data from a single, large state (California) to show that women are significantly advantaged in district (versus at-large) elections and in city clerkships compared with mayoralties and council positions. Argue that this may be the result of the competitiveness of elections, the status of the offices, and gender stereotypes.

"Political Monopolies in American Cities: The Rise and Fall of Bosses and Reformers" (University of Chicago Press, 2008).

Situates her in-depth studies of Chicago and San Jose in the broad context of data drawn from more than 240 cities over the course of a century. Illuminates the nature of political power. Reveals that both political machines and reform governments bias the system in favor of incumbents, effectively establishing monopolies that free governing coalitions from dependence on the support of their broader communities. Shows that the resulting loss of democratic responsiveness eventually mobilizes residents to vote monopolistic regimes out of office. Concludes by suggesting solutions designed to free urban politics from this damaging cycle.

"Race and Class Inequality in Local Politics," (with Zoltan Hajnal), American Political Science Association, November 10, 2016.

Assesses the effect of race and class divisions on the urban political arena in the United States. Presents an array of data from previous research outlining the roles that race and class play in shaping both individual political choice and overall political representation in urban politics. Reveals that both factors significantly shape political behavior and outcomes but concludes that race is the primary driver of urban politics across most contexts.

"Segregation by Design: Local Politics and Inequality in American Cities" (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Draws on more than 100 years of quantitative and qualitative data from thousands of American cities to explore how local governments generate race and class segregation. Explores how, starting in the early twentieth century, cities have used their power of land use control to determine the location and availability of housing, amenities (such as parks), and negative land uses (such as garbage dumps). Concludes that the result has been segregation - first within cities and more recently between them.

"The Context Matters: The Effects of Single-Member versus At-Large Districts on City Council Diversity" (with Melody Valdini). American Journal of Political Science 52, no. 3 (2008): 554-569.

Predicts that minorities benefit from districts while women benefit from at-large elections. Analyzes over 7,000 cities and interviews with city councilors, finding that compared to at-large systems, district systems can increase diversity only when underrepresented groups are highly concentrated and compose a substantial portion of the population. Discovers that that the electoral system has a significant effect on representation only for African American male and white female councilors; the proportion of African American women and Latina councilors is not affected by the use of either district or at-large systems.