John Mollenkopf

Position: Distinguished Professor
Campus Affiliation: CUNY Graduate Center
Degrees/Diplomas: PhD Harvard
Research Interests: urban politics, public policy, comparative urbanism
Prof. Mollenkopf teaches Political Science and Sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center, directs its Center for Urban Research, and chairs the public policy subfield in political science.  His teaching and research interests focus on urban politics and public policy, using New York City as a case study in comparison with similar large cities in the U.S. and Europe to understand urban political mobilization, immigrant political incorporation, and the formation of governing coalitions.  This work seeks to understand how urban policy decisions are made and what consequences they have for different groups and interests, particularly new immigrant groups.
He has authored or edited eighteen books on these subjects, most recently Unsettled Americans: Metropolitan Context and Civic Leadership for Immigrant Integration (Cornell University Press, 2016), co-edited with Manuel Pastor.  He also co-edited Bringing Outsiders In:  Transatlantic Perspectives on Immigrant Political Incorporation (Cornell University Press, 2009) with Jennifer Hochschild.  His 2010 book with Philip Kasinitz, Mary Waters, and Jennifer Holdaway, Inheriting the City: The Children of Immigrants Come of Age (paperback by Russell Sage Foundation, 2010), won the Distinguished Book Award of the American Sociological Association, the Thomas and Znaniecki Award of the ASA Immigration Section, and the Mirra Komarovsky Award of the Eastern Sociological Society.  His Place Matters: A Metropolitics for the 21st Century (with Peter Dreier and Todd Swanstrom, University Press of Kansas), now in its third edition (2014) won the Michael Harrington Award from the American Political Science Association.
Other recent books include The Urban Politics Reader (Routledge, 2006, co-edited with Elizabeth Strom) and Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation (Russell Sage Foundation, 2004), co-edited with Philip Kasinitz and Mary Waters.  Two earlier books, A Phoenix in the Ashes (Princeton University Press 1994) and The Contested City (Princeton University Press 1983) dissected the persistence of a conservative governing coalition in New York City and the rise of and challenges to pro-growth coalitions in Boston and San Francisco.  He has been a Visiting Professor at the Institute d’Etudes Politique in Paris, Wibaut Chair Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Amsterdam, a Visiting Scholar at the Russell Sage Foundation, and a Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford.
Prior to joining the Graduate Center in 1981, he directed the Economic Development Division of the New York City Department of City Planning and taught urban studies and public management at Stanford University. He was also Program Director for Urban Initiatives at the Social Science Research Council, chaired its Committee on New York City, and served on the editorial boards of PS and Urban Affairs Review.  He has also served as a consultant to many government agencies and the Center for Urban Research undertakes applied policy research for government agencies, community organizations, and philanthropies.
Read an interview with Dr. Mollenkopf here, from the Spring 2020 issue of our department newsletter, Homo Politicus.


unsettled amJohn Mollenkopf and Manuel Pastor Jr, eds., Unsettled Americans: Metropolitan Context and Civic Leadership for Immigrant Integration (Cornell, 2016).

The politics of immigration have heated up in recent years as Congress has failed to adopt comprehensive immigration reform, the President has proposed executive actions, and state and local governments have responded unevenly and ambivalently to burgeoning immigrant communities in the context of a severe economic downturn. Moreover we have witnessed large shifts in the locations of immigrants and their families between and within the metropolitan areas of the United States. Charlotte, North Carolina, may be a more active and dynamic immigrant destination than Chicago, Illinois, while the suburbs are receiving ever more immigrants.

The work of John Mollenkopf, Manuel Pastor, and their colleagues represents one of the first systematic comparative studies of immigrant incorporation at the metropolitan level. They consider immigrant reception in seven different metro areas, and their analyses stress the differences in capacity and response between central cities, down-at-the-heels suburbs, and outer metropolitan areas, as well as across metro areas. A key feature of case studies in the book is their inclusion of not only traditional receiving areas (New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles) but also newer ones (Charlotte, Phoenix, San Jose, and California’s “Inland Empire”). Another innovative aspect is that the authors link their work to the new literature on regional governance, contribute to emerging research on spatial variations within metropolitan areas, and highlight points of intersection with the longer-term processes of immigrant integration.

Contributors: Els de Graauw, CUNY; Juan De Lara, University of Southern California; Jaime Dominguez, Northwestern University; Diana Gordon, CUNY; Michael Jones-Correa, Cornell University; Paul Lewis, Arizona State University; Doris Marie Provine, Arizona State University; John Mollenkopf, CUNY; Manuel Pastor, University of Southern California; Rachel Rosner, independent consultant, Florida; Jennifer Tran, City of San Francisco

place matterPeter Dreier, John Mollenkopf, and Todd Swanstrom, Place Matters: Metropolitics for the 21st Century, 2nd Edition (University Press of Kansas, 2013).

How can the United States create the political will to address our major urban problems—poverty, unemployment, crime, traffic congestion, toxic pollution, education, energy consumption, and housing, among others? That’s the basic question addressed by the new edition of this award-winning book. Thoroughly revised and updated for its third edition, Place Matters examines the major trends and problems shaping our cities and suburbs, explores a range of policy solutions to address them, and looks closely at the potential political coalitions needed to put the country’s “urban crisis” back on the public agenda.

The problem of rising inequality is at the center of Place Matters. During the past several decades, the standard of living for the American middle class has stagnated, the number of poor people has reached its highest level since the 1960s, and the super-rich have dramatically increased their share of the nation’s wealth and income. At the same time, Americans have grown further apart in terms of where they live, work, and play. This trend—economic segregation—no longer simply reflects the racial segregation between white suburbs and minority cities. In cities and suburbs alike, poor, middle class, and wealthy Americans now live in separate geographic spaces.

The authors have updated the case studies and examples used to illustrate the book’s key themes, incorporated the latest Census data, and drawn on exit polls and other data to examine the voting patterns and outcomes of the 2012 elections. They have expanded their discussion of how American cities are influenced by and influence global economic and social forces and how American cities compare with their counterparts in other parts of the world. And they draw upon the latest research and case studies not only to examine the negative impacts of income inequality and economic segregation but also assess the efforts that civic and community groups, unions, business, and government are making to tackle them.

Fully up to date and far richer and more provocative, this new version surpasses its previous editions and will continue to be an essential volume for all who study urban politics and care about our cities.

changinf face citiesMaurice Crul and John Mollenkopf, eds. The Changing Face of World Cities (Russell Sage, 2012).

A seismic population shift is taking place as many formerly racially homogeneous cities in the West attract a diverse influx of newcomers seeking economic and social advancement. In The Changing Face of World Cities, a distinguished group of immigration experts presents the first systematic, data-based comparison of the lives of young adult children of immigrants growing up in seventeen big cities of Western Europe and the United States. Drawing on a comprehensive set of surveys, this important book brings together new evidence about the international immigrant experience and provides far-reaching lessons for devising more effective public policies.

The Changing Face of World Cities pairs European and American researchers to explore how youths of immigrant origin negotiate educational systems, labor markets, gender, neighborhoods, citizenship, and identity on both sides of the Atlantic. Maurice Crul and his co-authors compare the educational trajectories of second-generation Mexicans in Los Angeles with second-generation Turks in Western European cities. In the United States, uneven school quality in disadvantaged immigrant neighborhoods and the high cost of college are the main barriers to educational advancement, while in some European countries, rigid early selection sorts many students off the college track and into dead-end jobs. Liza Reisel, Laurence Lessard-Phillips, and Phil Kasinitz find that while more young members of the second generation are employed in the United States than in Europe, they are also likely to hold low-paying jobs that barely life them out of poverty. In Europe, where immigrant youth suffer from higher unemployment, the embattled European welfare system still yields them a higher standard of living than many of their American counterparts. Turning to issues of identity and belonging, Jens Schneider, Leo Chávez, Louis DeSipio, and Mary Waters find that it is far easier for the children of Dominican or Mexican immigrants to identify as American, in part because the United States takes hyphenated identities for granted. In Europe, religious bias against Islam makes it hard for young people of Turkish origin to identify strongly as German, French, or Swedish. Editors Maurice Crul and John Mollenkopf conclude that despite the barriers these youngsters encounter on both continents, they are making real progress relative to their parents and are beginning to close the gap with the native-born.

The Changing Face of World Cities goes well beyong existing immigration literature focused on the United States experience to show that national policies on each side of the Atlantic can be enriched by lessons from the other. The Changing Face of World Cities will be vital reading for anyone interested in the young people who will shape the future of our increasingly interconnected global economy.

becoming new yorkersPhilip Kasinitz, John H. Mollenkopf, and Mary C. Waters, eds., Becoming New Yorkers: Ethnographies of the New Second Generation (Russell Sage, 2006).

More than half of New Yorkers under the age of eighteen are the children of immigrants. This second generation shares with previous waves of immigrant youth the experience of attempting to reconcile their cultural heritage with American society. In Becoming New Yorkers, noted social scientists Philip Kasinitz, John Mollenkopf, and Mary Waters bring together in-depth ethnographies of some of New York’s largest immigrant populations to assess the experience of the new second generation and to explore the ways in which they are changing the fabric of American culture.

Becoming New Yorkers looks at the experience of specific immigrant groups, with regard to education, jobs, and community life. Exploring immigrant education, Nancy López shows how teachers’ low expectations of Dominican males often translate into lower graduation rates for boys than for girls. In the labor market, Dae Young Kim finds that Koreans, young and old alike, believe the second generation should use the opportunities provided by their parents’ small business success to pursue less arduous, more rewarding work than their parents. Analyzing civic life, Amy Forester profiles how the high-ranking members of a predominantly black labor union, who came of age fighting for civil rights in the 1960s, adjust to an increasingly large Caribbean membership that sees the leaders not as pioneers but as the old-guard establishment. In a revealing look at how the second-generation views itself, Sherry Ann Butterfield and Aviva Zeltzer-Zubida point out that black West Indian and Russian Jewish immigrants often must choose whether to identify themselves alongside those with similar skin color or to differentiate themselves from both native blacks and whites based on their unique heritage. Like many other groups studied here, these two groups experience race as a fluid, situational category that matters in some contexts but is irrelevant in others.

As immigrants move out of gateway cities and into the rest of the country, America will increasingly look like the multicultural society vividly described in Becoming New Yorkers. This insightful work paints a vibrant picture of the experience of second generation Americans as they adjust to American society and help to shape its future.

John Mollenkopf (ed.), Contentious City: The Politics of Recovery in New York City (New York : Russell Sage Foundation, 2005).

Few public projects have ever dealt with economic and emotional issues as large as those surrounding the rebuilding of lower Manhattan following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001. Picking up the pieces involved substantial challenges: deciding how to memorialize one of America’s greatest tragedies, how to balance the legal claim of landowners against the moral claim of survivors who want a say in the future of Ground Zero, and how to rebuild the Trade Center site while preserving the sacredness and solemnity that Americans now attribute to the area. All the while, the governor, the mayor, the Port Authority, and the leaseholder competed with one another to advance their own interests and visions of the redevelopment, while at least leaving the impression that the decisions were the public’s to make. In Contentious City, editor John Mollenkopf and a team of leading scholars analyze the wide-ranging political dimensions of the recovery process.

Contentious City takes an in-depth look at the competing interests and demands of the numerous stakeholders who have sought to influence the direction of the recovery process. Lynne Sagalyn addresses the complicated institutional politics behind the rebuilding, which involve a newly formed development commission seeking legitimacy, a two-state transportation agency whose brief venture into land ownership puts it in control of the world’s most famous 16 acres of land, and a private business group whose affiliation with the World Trade Center places it squarely in a fight for billions of dollars in insurance funds. Arielle Goldberg profiles five civic associations that sprouted up to voice public opinion about the redevelopment process. While the groups did not gain much leverage over policy outcomes, Goldberg argues that they were influential in steering the agenda of decision-makers and establishing what values would be prioritized in the development plans. James Young, a member of the jury that selected the design for the World Trade Center site memorial, discusses the challenge of trying to simultaneously memorialize a tragic event, while helping those who suffered find renewal and move on with their lives. Editor John Mollenkopf contributes a chapter on how the September 11 terrorist attacks altered the course of politics in New York, and how politicians at the city and state level adapted to the new political climate after 9/11 to win elected office.

Moving forward after the destruction of the Twin Towers was a daunting task, made more difficult by the numerous competing claims on the site, and the varied opinions on how it should be used in the future.Contentious City brings together the voices surrounding this intense debate, and helps make sense of the rival interests vying for control over one of the most controversial urban development programs in history.

Gary Gerstle and John Mollenkopf eds., E Pluribus Unum? Contemporary and Historical Perspectives on Immigrant Political Incorporation, (New York: Russell Sage Foundation Press, 2001).

The political involvement of earlier waves of immigrants and their children was essential in shaping the American political climate in the first half of the twentieth century. Immigrant votes built industrial trade unions, fought for social protections and religious tolerance, and helped bring the Democratic Party to dominance in large cities throughout the country. In contrast, many scholars find that today’s immigrants, whose numbers are fast approaching those of the last great wave, are politically apathetic and unlikely to assume a similar voice in their chosen country. E Pluribus Unum? delves into the wealth of research by historians of the Ellis Island era and by social scientists studying today’s immigrants and poses a crucial question: What can the nation’s past experience teach us about the political path modern immigrants and their children will take as Americans? E Pluribus Unum? explores key issues about the incorporation of immigrants into American public life, examining the ways that institutional processes, civic ideals, and cultural identities have shaped the political aspirations of immigrants. The volume presents some surprising re-assessments of the past as it assesses what may happen in the near future. An examination of party bosses and the party machine concludes that they were less influential political mobilizers than is commonly believed. Thus their absence from today’s political scene may not be decisive. Some contributors argue that the contemporary political system tends to exclude immigrants, while others remind us that past immigrants suffered similar exclusions, achieving political power only after long and difficult struggles. Will the strong home country ties of today’s immigrants inhibit their political interest here? Chapters on this topic reveal that transnationalism has always been prominent in the immigrant experience, and that today’s immigrants may be even freer to act as dual citizens. E Pluribus Unum? theorizes about the fate of America’s civic ethos — has it devolved from an ideal of liberal individualism to a fractured multiculturalism, or have we always had a culture of racial and ethnic fragmentation? Research in this volume shows that today’s immigrant schoolchildren are often less concerned with ideals of civic responsibility than with forging their own identity and finding their own niche within the American system of racial and ethnic distinction.

Incorporating the significant influx immigrants into American society is a central challenge for our civic and political institutions — one that cuts to the core of who we are as a people and as a nation. E Pluribus Unum? shows that while today’s immigrants and their children are in some ways particularly vulnerable to political alienation, the process of assimilation was equally complex for earlier waves of immigrants. This past has much to teach us about the way immigration is again reshaping the nation.

John Mollenkopf, Peter Dreier and Todd Swanstrom, Place Matters: Metropolitics for the Twenty-First Century (Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2001).

Three distinguished scholars challenge us to put the urban crisis back on the national agenda, both as a moral challenge to our conscience and an economic challenge to America’s prosperity and our families’ pocketbooks. Focusing on the growing concentration of poverty in our cities and older suburbs and the mounting costs of suburban sprawl, they argue that these problems have political origins and can thus be resolved through political means—but only if we fully understand the power of place.

Despite modern telecommunications—faxes, linked computers, etc.—where we live shapes our lives and fortunes as much as ever. Place affects our access to jobs and public services (especially education), our access to shopping and culture, our level of personal security, the availability of medical services, and even the air we breathe. Economic segregation is increasing in American metropolitan areas—the rich and poor continue to move apart from one another. This has devastating effects on those who are forced to live in areas of concentrated poverty. But it also imposes costs, often unrecognized, on middle class and rich families who in their effort to escape the problems of concentrated poverty, undermine the quality of their own lives by suffering the effects of unrestricted sprawl.

The central thesis of Place Matters is that economic segregation between rich and poor and the growing sprawl of American cities and suburbs are not solely the result of individual choices in free markets. Rather, these problems have been powerfully shaped by short-sighted government policies. The first order of business must be to overhaul those policies. In the process, both urban and suburban citizens will gain a keener awareness that they are all ultimately bound by common interests and share a common fate.

Ken Emerson and John Mollenkopf eds., Rethinking the Urban Agenda: Reinvigorating the Liberal Tradition in New York City and Urban America, (New York: Century Foundation Press, 2001).

The culmination of a year-long lecture series cosponsored by The Century Foundation and the City University of New York Graduate Center’s Center for Urban Research, Rethinking the Urban Agenda takes up the challenge provided by a changing of the guard in New York City government-the election of a new mayor and city council-to outline a new conceptual and political road map for New York City’s future and, in many important respects, for the future of urban America.

Victor Goldsmith, Philip McGuire, John Mollenkopf and Timothy Ross eds., Analyzing Crime Patterns: Frontiers of Practice, (Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage  Publications, 2000).

Crime control continues to be a growth industry, despite the drop in crime indicators throughout the nation. This volume shows how state-of-the-art geographic information systems (GIS) are revolutionizing urban law enforcement, with an award-winning program in New York City leading the way. Electronic “pin mapping” is used to display the incidence of crime, to stimulate effective strategies and decision making, and to evaluate the impact of recent activity applied to hotspots.

The expert information presented by 12 contributors will guide departments without such tools to understand the latest technologies and successfully employ them. Besides describing and assessing cutting-edge techniques of crime mapping, this book emphasizes:

  • the organizational and intellectual contexts in which spatial analysis of crime takes place,
  • the technical problems of defining, measuring, interpreting, and predicting spatial concentrations of crime,
  • the common use of New York City crime data, and
  • practical applications of what is known (e.g., a review of mapping and analysis software packages using the same data set).

John Mollenkopf, A Phoenix in the Ashes: The Rise and Fall of the Koch Coalition in New York City Politics (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1994).

In the years following its near-bankruptcy in 1976 until the end of the 1980s, New York City came to epitomize the debt-driven, deal-oriented, economic boom of the Reagan era. Exploring the interplay between social structural change and political power during this period, John Mollenkopf asks why a city with a large minority population and a long tradition of liberalism elected a conservative mayor who promoted real-estate development and belittled minority activists. Through a careful analysis of voting patterns, political strategies of various interest groups, and policy trends, he explains how Mayor Edward Koch created a powerful political coalition and why it ultimately failed.

John Mollenkopf and Manuel Castells eds., Dual City: Restructuring of New York (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1992).

Explores the complicated new patterns of inequality that emerge when class, race, ethnicity, and gender intersect with the city. York positions an organized core of largely white male professionals and managers against a fragmented and diffuse periphery that ranges from Chinese women garment workers to native-born black male civil service professionals to white women clerical workers.

John Mollenkopf, Contested City (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1990).

Over the last five decades American cities have been transformed as profoundly and tumultuously as they were during the industrial revolution. In contrast to that earlier era, this contemporary transformation has been stimulated and guided by governmental intervention. John H. Mollenkopf analyzes the government programs and the supporting political coalitions that made this intervention possible. His book shows how the success of these programs, developed largely by urban liberal Democrats, led to new conflicts that ultimately undermined urban development policy.

Using Boston and San Francisco as case studies, the author shows how urban development programs influenced and were influenced by big-city politics. He denies that the current impasse in national politics and urban development stems from technical inadequacies in existing policies. Instead, he argues, it results from failure to reconcile the conflicting interests of dominant urban economic institutions and the urban populace — a failure that led not only to the collapse of the postwar urban development consensus but to the disarray of the Democratic party itself. His suggestions as to how consensus can be restored will fascinate anyone concerned with the future of American politics and the American city.

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