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Gerald Gamm - University of Rochester. Rochester, NY, US

Gerald Gamm Gerald Gamm

Professor of Political Science and History | University of Rochester


Gamm is an expert in U.S and urban politics

Areas of Expertise (5)

Congress State Politics U.S. Politics Urban Politics State Legislatures



Gerald Gamm Publication







Gerald Gamm is a professor of political science and history at the University of Rochester and researches American politics, political development, legislatures, parties, and state and local politics. Current research is on Congress, state legislatures, and urban politics. He is the author of two books: The Making of New Deal Democrats (University of Chicago Press, 1989), and Urban Exodus: Why the Jews Left Boston and the Catholics Stayed (Harvard University Press, 1999). There's also a forthcoming book (with Steven S. Smith) on the development of Senate party leadership in the 19th and 20th centuries.

He teaches courses in the fields of American politics and American history.

Education (1)

Harvard University: Ph.D, History and Political Science 1994

Selected Media Appearances (4)

American History TV

C-SPAN  tv


Panelists took questions regarding the history of the United States Congress, such as when Senate floor leadership first emerged and the impact of party politics.

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Can the City of Kodak and Xerox Rebuild Its Workforce for the Digital Age?

Next City  online


“I think what makes Rochester different is how new this all feels for people,” says Gerald Gamm, a political science professor at the University of Rochester. “Rochester’s economy continues to thrive well into the ’80s, even into the ’90s. And the bottom falls out of Rochester’s economy when the bottom falls out on Kodak … It’s a change that all happened in the span of a single generation.”

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What Do States Have Against Cities, Anyway?

Governing  online


Legislatures regularly interfere with local affairs. The reasons, according to research, will surprise you.

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Upstate tour helps new NY speaker find his footing

Democrat & Chronicle  online


“The upstate-downstate divide is one of the oldest features of the state’s political system, said University of Rochester political scientist Gerald Gamm. “What the speaker is going to see (upstate) is that the challenges facing upstate are in many ways fundamentally different than those facing New York City, Long Island and the suburbs.”

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Selected Articles (3)

No Strength in Numbers: The Failure of Big-City Bills in American State Legislatures, 1880-2000 American Political Science Review

with Thad Kousser

Do big cities exert more power than less populous ones in American state legislatures? In many political systems, greater representation leads to more policy gains, yet for most of the nation's history, urban advocates have argued that big cities face systematic discrimination in statehouses. Drawing on a new historical dataset spanning 120 years and 13 states, we find clear evidence that there is no strength in numbers for big-city delegations in state legislatures. District bills affecting large metropolises fail at much higher rates than bills affecting small cities, counties, and villages. Big cities lose so often because size leads to damaging divisions. We demonstrate that the cities with the largest delegations—which are more likely to be internally divided—are the most frustrated in the legislative process. Demographic differences also matter, with district bills for cities that have many foreign-born residents, compared with the state as a whole, failing at especially high rates.

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Broad Bills or Particularistic Policy? Historical Patterns in American State Legislatures American Political Science Review

with Thad Kousser


When do lawmakers craft broad policies, and when do they focus on narrow legislation tailored to a local interest? We investigate this question by exploring historical variation in the types of bills produced by American state legislatures. Drawing on a new database of 165,000 bills—covering sessions over 120 years in thirteen different states—we demonstrate the surprising prominence of particularistic bills affecting a specific legislator's district. We then develop and test a theory linking the goals of legislators to their propensity to introduce district bills rather than broad legislation. We find that, consistent with our predictions, politicians are more likely to craft policies targeted to a particular local interest when a legislature is dominated by one party or when it pays its members relatively high salaries. These findings provide empirical support for Key's (1949) thesis that one-party politics descends into factionalism and undermines the making of broad public policy.

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Pockets of Expertise: Institutional Capacity in Twentieth-Century State Legislatures American Political Science Review

Nancy Burns, Laura Evans, Corrine McConnaughy

We examine the development of legislative capacity in U.S. state legislatures in the twentieth century. This capacity can be derived from the legislators themselves, or from institutions and practices. We consider both sources as we provide an account of the ragged and piecemeal development of legislative capacity in the states. We argue that most state legislatures have been neither entirely professional nor amateur, but rather have existed somewhere in between, in a place where pockets of expertise fill in for professional capacity.

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