New Partnership Federalism

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New Partnership Federalism is a model of intergovernmental relations associated with the Jimmy Carter administration. Occurring from 1977 to 1980, New Partnership Federalism was a subtype of cooperative federalism that focused heavily on the revitalization of urban communities.

The genesis of this model came from Carter’s calls for a “new partnership” that would involve all governmental levels in the attempt to renew these urban regions. This new partnership assumed that the national level of government needed to take an active role in helping urban communities overcome a variety of problems. To this end, the model of New Partnership Federalism had four main goals: to preserve the heritage of the United States’ older cities, to maintain the investment in physical and human capital in these older urban regions, to help younger cities confront the challenges associated with new growth, and to deliver improved community services, housing, and job opportunities to urban neighborhoods.

However, the new partnership extended beyond the national government. Indeed, this model of federalism was founded on the assertion that private-public partnerships were needed to find a remedy to the problems that plagued urban areas. New Partnership Federalism encouraged the states to act more effectively and evenhandedly in funding urban support services. New Partnership Federalism also called on the localities to streamline and coordinate their services in a more efficient manner.

Under the umbrella of New Partnership Federalism, the Carter administration supported a wide range of new incentives, including fiscal assistance, community and human development programs, employment and economic development, and reorienting government activities between all levels of government. Federal programs, especially, were based on four “guiding principles”: simplification, consolidation, targeting, and flexibility. Carter also called for the development of community impact statements to be prepared whenever new federal policy actions were proposed.

Proponents of New Partnership Federalism believed fiscal intervention was the best approach to helping urban communities. This strategy relied heavily on the use of grants-in-aid and tax policies. Two examples of this strategy included Urban Development Action Grants, a short-lived program designed to promote economic development in struggling cities, and the expansion of the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) programs. By 1978, more than a million unemployed individuals were able to find jobs through CETA program.

The main criticism of New Partnership Federalism is that the national government tended to bypass the states, especially at the beginning of the Carter administration. In fact, the states had taken the initiative to work with the local governments on urban problems prior to the development of a national policy.

The New Partnership Federalism model of intergovernmental relations was cut short with Carter’s defeat in 1980. Under Ronald Reagan’s leadership, national-state relations soon returned to a model of dual federalism.


Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, “In Washington: Not Many Answers,” Intergovernmental Perspective 5, no. 1 (Winter 1979): 32–42; Jane Roberts, “National Urban Policy: Initial Intergovernmental Readings,” Intergovernmental Perspective 4, no. 2 (Spring 1978): 7–14; and David B. Walker, “The Advent of an Ambiguous Federalism and the Emergence of New Federalism III,” Public Administration Review 56, no. 3 (May–June 1996): 271–80.

Mary Hallock Morris

Last Updated: 2006

SEE ALSO: Cooperative Federalism; New Federalism (Reagan)