Political Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Structural Choices and Representational Biases: The Post-Election Color of Representation

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Representation scholars link descriptive representation of blacks and Latinos in legislative bodies to substantive policy representation. We examine this relationship on local school boards where issue salience is high, the cost of gaining legislative access is relatively low, and nonpartisan elections produce a greater likelihood of linking policy preferences to racial cues. Theoretically, we connect substantive representation to the method of election; blacks and Latinos elected at-large face different constraints than their ward-elected counterparts, and thus behave differently on an at-large board than they would on a ward-elected one. This theoretical story suggests a number of hypotheses that we test using cross-sectional data from 1000+ school districts in Texas. Using OLS, we find that the type of election has significant direct and indirect effects on the hiring of black and Latino administrators and teachers to the school district, after controlling for other factors. We find that election type has descriptive representational effects for Latinos, but more importantly, electoral constraints produce variable substantive policy outcomes once both black and Latino officials take office.



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American Journal of Political Science