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When Representatives Work: The Influence of Local Context on Minority Representation
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Representative bureaucracy theory often explains representation without a discussion of agency context. However, in many agencies not only is there a lack of support to develop a passively representative workforce, but there also exists little support for active representation. Scholars have recently developed a theory of context that describes various characteristics of the organizational context as a conditioning variable on management and performance. This research explores how agency contexts will potentially improve or mitigate the effect of minority representation on minority student outcomes. The research addresses three contextual characteristics: the organization’s financial uncertainty, the organization’s social context, and the organization’s political context. I explore my research question in the context of U.S. local public education. Within the research, I use a national survey dataset that captures bureaucratic representation in the largest U.S. school districts, funding data provided by the National Center of Education Statistics, and a unique dataset on school district social capital. The findings indicate first that in the midst of financial stress, negative changes in revenue dedicated to the technical core of the school district (instructional expenditures) will decrease the expected impact of minority teachers on student outcomes. Likewise, increases in bureaucratic investment will significantly improve the ability of minority teachers to affect minority student outcomes. Next, although overall levels of social capital are negatively or insignificantly related to minority social opportunity and outcomes, minority teachers are increasingly effective when minority social capital can act as a co-productive facilitator for the bureaucracy. Last, this research finds that minority bureaucrats are more effective representatives when various political actors support their representative behaviors. The exact political control actor differs by racial minority group. I conclude that minority representation is influenced by various contextual characteristics within the local school district and addressing these characteristics can potentially affect minority client outcomes in public programs.
Carroll, Kristen Monique (2017). When Representatives Work: The Influence of Local Context on Minority Representation. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from