I am a policy scholar with an interest in urban studies, spatial planning and migration studies.

As of September 2019, I am an Assistant Professor in Spatial Development and Urban Policy at ETH Zürich, Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development. The newly established research group will work at the intersection of public policy, urban politics, and spatial planning.

Contact: kadavid@ethz.ch

Please find my CV here:

For more information:




Kaufmann, David. 2018. Varieties of Capital Cities: The Competitiveness Challenge for Secondary Capital Cities. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Published in the Cities series.

„This volume constitutes a major contribution to the study of comparative urban economic development and public policy.“
– Paul Kantor, Fordham University, US

Mayer, Heike, Fritz Sager, David Kaufmann and Martin Warland. 2018. The Political Economy of Capital Cities. London: Routledge.
Published in the Regions and Cities series.

Special issues

Kaufmann, David and Mara Sidney. 2020. Symposium: Toward an urban policy analysis, PS: Political Science & Politics 53(1): 1-32.

Journal articles (double-blind peer review)

Kaufmann, David and Mara Sidney. 2020. Toward an urban policy analysis: Incorporating participation, multilevel governance, and ‘seeing like a city’, PS: Political Science & Politics 53 (1): 1-5.

Lutz, Philipp, David Kaufmann and Anna Stünzi. 2020. Humanitarian protection as a European public good: The strategic role of states and refugees, Journal of Common Market Studies.

Kaufmann, David and Stefan Wittwer. 2019. Business centre or bedroom community? The development of employment in small and medium-sized towns, Regional Studies 53(10): 1483-1493.

Kaufmann, David. 2019. Comparing urban citizenship, sanctuary cities, local bureaucratic membership, and regularizations, Public Administration Review 79(3): 443–446.

Kaufmann, David and Fritz Sager. 2019. How to organize secondary capital city regions: Institutional drivers of locational policy coordination, Governance 32(1): 63–81.
Winner of the Best Comparative Policy Paper Award (JCPA and ICPA)

Kaufmann, David. 2019. Capital cities in interurban competition: Local autonomy, urban governance and locational-policy making, Urban Affairs Review. Early Online.
Blog post in Urban Affairs Forum

Kaufmann, David and Rahel Meili. 2019. Leaves in the wind? Local policies of small and medium- sized towns in metropolitan regions, European Planning Studies 27(1): 21-41.

Bernhard, Laurent and David Kaufmann. 2018. Coping with the asylum challenge: Tightening and streamlining policies in Western Europe, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 44(15): 2506–2523.

Kaufmann, David and Tobias Arnold. 2018. Strategies of cities in globalized interurban competition: the locational policies framework, Urban Studies 55: 2703–2720.
Blog post in Urban Studies Blog

Kaufmann, David, Martin Warland, Heike Mayer and Fritz Sager. 2016. Bern’s positioning strategy: Escaping the fate of a secondary capital city?, Cities 53: 206–215

Mayer, Heike, Fritz Sager, David Kaufmann and Martin Warland. 2016. Capital city dynamics: Linking regional innovation systems, locational policies and policy regimes, Cities 51: 11–20.

Research Agendas

I apply a public policy lens on urban studies, (spatial) planning and migration studies. Public policy analyzes governmental interventions that aim at solving societal problems. I focus on governance arrangements, conceptual policy frameworks and the effects of these policies.

urban policy analysis

Societal, environmental and technological transformations accentuate themselves in dense settings, pushing cities and metropolitan regions at the forefront of tackling complex policy problems. Whether responding to climate change, migration, poverty, or limited land availability, or aiming to to generate sustainable development and inclusive technological transformations, cities tend to be policy innovators of global importance. This also means that contemporary confrontations between public and private property and land, between participation and exclusion, wealth and poverty, and emerging technology and existing economic, social, and political structures take physical form in cities. Thus, cities and their policies are essential objects of study if we want to understand contemporary transformations.

The conceptual part of this research agenda brings the subdisciplines of urban politics and public policy in dialogue with one another. Emprically, I study locational policies as well as policies in support of irregular migrants.
– I cooperate with Mara Sidney (Rutgers University), for this research.

Locational policies

Globalized interurban competition affects cities of various sizes and cities in various locations. Cities try to find ways to position themselves in global markets by formulating locational policies. Locational policies aim to enhance the economic competitiveness of the targeted locality by identifying, developing, and exploiting place-specific assets. To capture the wide range of locational policies, I developed a conceptual framework of locational policies that is interdisciplinarily informed by theories of economic geography and political science Empirically, I study locational policies in capital cities, in small and medium-sized cities as well as in small and medium-sized towns.
– I cooperate with Heike Mayer, Fritz Sager, Rahel Meili, and Stefan Wittwer (all University of Bern) for this research.

Sanctuary cities

Irregular migrants tend to live in dense urban settings. City governments feel a certain immediacy to support, protect and regularize irregular migrants because they irregular migrants are perceived as regular participants in the everyday life of their communities and not as abstract illegal constructs. Thus, irregular migrants have become an urban policy target group. Cities engage in the formulation and implementation of a variety of migration and citizenship policies in support of irregular migrants such as urban citizenship, sanctuary city practices, local bureaucratic membership, and regularizations. I study these urban immigration and citizenship policies mainly in European cities.

Migration and Asylum policies

Asylum policies have become salient in Europe. From the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s to the so-called 2015 ‘refugee crisis’, humanitarian tragedies in Europe’s neighborhoods have repeatedly sparked political divisions between European states and intense and emotionally charged public debates. Volatile numbers of refugee arrivals have highlighted the persistent malfunctioning and shortcomings of EU national asylum policy. This research agenda studies policy developments in the EU as well as on the national level. I study the difficulties of advancing the Common European Asylum System and its important Dublin Regulation. Furthermore, I examine national asylum policy developments in Switzerland and policy narratives in the Swiss direct democratic context.
– I cooperate with Laurent Bernhard (FORS, University of Lausanne), Philipp Lutz (University of Bern), and Anna Stünzi (ETH Zürich) for this research.


  • FS2019: “Sustainability in law and politics“, seminar for B.A. students, together with Dr. Elisabeth Bürgi Bonanomi
  • SS2019: “Migration policies”, seminar for M.A. students
  • SS2018: “Urban politics, urban policies, and metropolitan governance”, seminar for M.A. students
  • SS2017: “Urban politics, urban policies, and metropolitan governance”, seminar for M.A. students, together with Prof. Dr. Fritz Sager and Stefan Wittwer
  • SS2016: “Urban policies and metropolitan governance”, seminar for M.A. students, together with Prof. Dr. Fritz Sager
  • SS2014: “Urban politics and metropolitan governance”, seminar for M.A. students, together with Prof. Dr. Fritz Sager

Research Grants & Policy Advice

I conducted a variety of third party funded research grants and research projects.

  • Swiss National Science Foundation 2016-2019, Urban prosperity beyond the metropolis: Analyzing small and medium-sized towns in Switzerland, grant number 159324. Project leaders: Heike Mayer and Fritz Sager.
  • Swiss National Science Foundation 2013-2016: Capital City Dynamics: A Comparative Analysis of Innovation and Positioning of Secondary Capital City Regions, grant number 143784. Project leaders: Heike Mayer and Fritz Sager.
  • Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs 2016- today: Task within the recruitment procedure for Swiss Diplomates (Concours)
  • Municpality Wohlen bei Bern 2018: “Überprüfung und Anpassung der Verwaltungsstrukturen der Gemeinde Wohlen bei Bern”
  • Swiss Science and Innovation Council 2017: “Wirkungsprüfung SystemsX.ch und die Dateninfrastruktur”
  • Association Bern NEU Gründen 2017: “Verwaltungsorganisation und politische Partizipation in einer fusionierten Grossstadt Bern”
  • Swiss Federal Office of Public Health 2013: “Drug shortages in Switzerland: A literature review”

Bio & CV


David Kaufmann is Assistant Professor of Spatial Development and Urban Policy at ETH Zürich, Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development. His research examines the intersections of public policy, urban politics, spatial planning and migration studies. At ETH Zürich, he is a member of the Network City and Landscape, the Institute of Science, Technology and Policy and of the Center for Comparative and International Studies at ETH Zürich.

David Kaufmann studied political science at the University of Zürich and the University of Lund. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Bern end of 2016. He was guest researcher at Leiden University, Virginia Tech, University of Ottawa and University of Toronto.

David Kaufmann is the author of Varieties of Capital Cities (2018, Edward Elgar) and co-author of the book The Political Economy of Capital Cities (2018, Routledge). His work has been published in leading international journals such as Governance, Public Administration Review, Regional Studies, and Urban Studies. 

David Kaufmann received  the Carl-Goerdeler-Preis for the best Ph.D thesis about local politics or local administration in business and social sciences in German-speaking countries, the Susan Clarke Young Scholars’ Award awarded by the APSA section “Urban and Local Politics” and the Best Comparative Policy Paper Award (together with Prof. Dr. Fritz Sager) awarded by the journal JCPA and the „IPSA Research Committee on Comparative Studies on Local Governments and Politics”.

Academic positions
  • 2019 – present: Assistant Professor, ETH Zürich
  • 2017 – 2019: University of Bern, Postdoctoral Researcher
    • 06-07/2019: University of Toronto, School of Cities, Visiting Fellowship
  • 2013-2016: University of Bern, Research and Teaching Assistant
    • 03-05/2015: Ottawa University, Guest Researcher
    • 12/2014-02/2015: Virginia Tech, Guest Researcher
    • 09-11/2014: Leiden University, Guest Researcher
  • 2016: Ph.D. University of Bern
  • 2012: M.A. University of Zürich
  • 2010: B.A. University of Zürich
    • 2008-2009: University of Lund, Erasmus exchange year (two terms)
  • 2006: Higher education entrance qualification for adults (Passarelle)
  • 2004: Commercial Apprenticeship with Professional Maturity
  • 2018: Kommunalwissenschaftlicher Preis der Carl und Anneliese Goerdeler-Stiftung, best Ph.D. thesis about local governance or local administration in business and social sciences in German-speaking countries.
  • 2017: Susan Clarke Young Scholars’ Award, awarded by the American Political Science Association section “Urban and Local Politics”.
  • 2017: Best Comparative Policy Paper Award (together with Prof. Dr. Fritz Sager), awarded by the “Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis” and the “International Political Science Association Research Committee on Comparative Studies on Local Governments and Politics”.


Prof. Dr. David Kaufmann
ETH Zürich
Spatial Development and Urban Policy (SPUR)
Institute for Spatial and Landscape Development (IRL)
HIL H 29.3, Stefano-Franscini-Platz 5
8093 Zürich, Switzerland
phone: +41 44 633 94 84

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