Sample Research Paper on Divided City

Divided City

In the world over, there are cities that are divided by various factors such as war, religion, politics, or national, state, or county boundaries. Today, increased globalization has seen people from diverse racial backgrounds occupy cities resulting in the division of these cities on the grounds of culture and lifestyle. One thing to note about cities divided based on boundaries is that physical boundaries such as walls rarely exist. Based on these perspectives, the term “divided city” refers to a city which, as a consequence of political changes or border shifts, constitutes two entities or an urban area that has a border running through the same. The way people live or go about their day-to-day activities has been the center of focus in the recent times. This paper focuses on Kansas City, which is one of the renowned divided cities in North America. It gives insight into various aspects of Kansas City including its economy, logistics (how people travel), the history of how and when it was divided, recent events worth noting, and the spread of power (which side is in control).

Kansas City is located on the border of the U.S. states of Missouri and Kansas. Estimations indicate that the city has a population of 2,340,000, and therefore, it ranks as the second largest metropolitan region(Newill, 2014). Kansas City constitutes two cities; Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) and Kansas City, Missouri (KCMO). To start with Kansas City, Kansas, which falls in the state of Kansas is considered the third-largest city in the state. It is often abbreviated as “KCK” to distinguish it from Kansas City, Missouri. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, KCK has a population of about 145,786 residents although this has increased significantly over the years. KCK is situated at Kaw Point, which is located at the confluence of rivers Missouri and Kansas(Jacobs, 2012). KCK, which is part of the larger Kansas City, was incorporated in October 1872 with its first election being held on October 22 of the same year by order of Judge Hiram Stevens of the Tenth Judicial District. The election saw James Boyle become the first ever mayor of KCK. New KCK was later formed in March 1886 through a consolidation of five municipalities including “Old” KCK, Armstrong, Riverview, Wyandotte, and Armourdale. Since the 1890s, KCK has witnessed an explosive growth in population although the population remains significantly lower than that of KCMO.

On the other hand, KCMO, which forms part of the larger Kansas City, is considered the largest city in the state of Missouri and the sixth largest city in the Midwest. Based on statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, KCMO had an estimated population of 475,378 in 2015(Jacobs, 2012). With these figures, KCMO was ranked the 36th largest city regarding population in the entire United States. KCMO is larger than KCK and is considered the anchor of the larger Kansas City region. Unlike KCK, KCMO was founded earlier in the 1830s as a port of Missouri River at the point of confluence with Kansas River, and in June 1850, KCMO was incorporated. KCMO covers an area of 319.03 square miles, which makes it the 23rd largest city by total area in the United States. A large portion of KCMO falls in Jackson County, which lies on the Missouri side whereas other portions of KCMO fall in other Missouri counties such as Cass and Platte counties.Other than these perspectives, it is argued that the division of Kansas City started back in the early 1800s following the physical and political class between pro-slavery Missourians and abolitionist Kansans. Since the time, there have been significant divisions between the two sides of the city regarding the distribution and location of key resources such as streetcars, sports stadium renovations and bistate tax initiatives(Jacobs, 2012).

Kansas City (both KCK and KCMO) is an economic hub in the US with the federal government being the largest employer in the region. Research indicates that over 146 federal agencies are found in Kansas City making it one of the ten regional office cities for the U.S. government. The city’s economy is driven by various institutions and organizations including the Internal Revenue Service that employs an estimated 700 people of a full-time schedule. Other key organizations that play a part in the economy of Kansas City include the General Services Administration, the Kansas City Plant operated by Honeywell, and the Social Security Administration all of which have over 800, 2,700, and 1,700 employees respectively. Other key institutions that boost the economy of Kansas City include the United States Postal Service, Ford Motor Company, the General Motors Fairfax Assembly Plant, Smith Electric Vehicles, Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City Steak Company, and several others. KCMO contributes more than KCK to Kansas City economy with research indicating that in 2005, KCMO had Gross Metropolitan Product of $41.68 billion. With these figures, KCMO’s economy makes up approximately 20.5 percent of Missouri’s gross state product. In 2014, bearing in mind its milestones in economic growth and development, Kansas City was ranked sixth in the United States for real estate investment.

Further, there is a significant division between KCK and KCMO, especially when it comes to policies. Since the 1980s, Kansas City has been divided in terms of policies such as the legal drinking age. For people living in the part of Kansas City falling in the state of Kansas, the legal drinking age was and has been 18 years whereas, for those living in the part of the city falling in the state of Missouri, the legal drinking age was and has been 21(Wilder, 2010). There are arguments that the low drinking age on the Kansas side is one of the primary factors that brought many people over the state line(Newill, 2014).

What makes Kansas City different from other divided cities not only in the U.S. but the world over is that many people live on the state line. In fact, the movement of people from one side of the city to the other is boosted by the good road networks in the city. The State Line Road dividing the two sides of Kansas City is considered one of the busiest streets in the city because people regularly cross from one side to the other to purchase household items and other products(Badger & Cameron, 2015). The division of the city notwithstanding, KCK and KCMO work together in various operations such as traffic lighting and snow removal. It is these set of agreements between KCK and KCMOthat divide the State Line Road into parts from north to south (Ziegler, 2014). The fact that the two sides of the city share operation costs for specific services can be traced to the late 1980s when after the collapse of the Union station (a hub of rail traffic in Kansas City), there was a bistate tax measure in 1996 that was passed and saw nearly $250 million pumped into the station.

A recent event worth noting is the economic border war in Kansas City, which has jeopardized regionalism and cooperation between the two sides of the city. In 2004, for instance, there were attempts to have the two states, Kansas and Missouri, raise approximately $1.2 billion aimed at improving arts programs and other projects in Kansas City. Although this initiative was passed, it failed on the Kansas side with only 46 percent of voters on the side supporting it (Newill, 2014). From a wider perspective, the city of Kansas remains largely divided not only by the state boundary separating it but also by the economic border war and practices of either side. There have been several attempts through the use of tax incentives and deals to lure or attract business owners to one side of the city or another. In the summer of 2014, the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon, signed legislation aimed at barring the use of tax incentives and deals to lure business owners to the Missouri side of Kansas City with the primary objective of fostering cooperation between the two sides of Kansas City. Unfortunately, Kansas legislators did not respond by enacting a similar legislation aimed at fostering cooperation between KCK and KCMO(Ziegler, 2014).

To sum up, Kansas City being a bi-state area, has numerous problems that attract regional and global attention, and this will pose further challenges to the residents of Kansas City. An underlying question is whether the economic border war witnessed in Kansas City will be solved.


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Wilder, C. (2010, May 15). 36 Hours in Kansas City, Mo. The New York Times. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from

Ziegler, L. (Sep 18, 2014). When It Comes to Kansas City’s State Line, It’s Complicated. KUCR BBC World Service. Retrieved April 28, 2017, from