The role of racial climate in the effects of Latino immigration on the representation of Latinos and African-Americans on local school boards
Edwards, Jason Thomas
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This dissertation analyzes the effects of Latino immigration on the representation of Latinos and African-Americans on local school boards and attempts to explain under what conditions Latino immigrants provoke opposition among whites. I consider two measures of representation based on representative bureaucracy—the membership of Latinos and African-Americans on school boards and bias in the responsiveness of white school board members toward these two groups. Whites as the major racial group in the U.S. have been the subject of much intergroup relations research focusing on competition for scarce resources, perceived threat and group biases (e.g., Evans and Giles, 1986; Giles and Evans, 1985, 1986; Esses, Jackson and Armstrong, 1998), and I also focus on their racial behaviors as voters in school board elections and as school board members. I consider Latino immigration in this research because emerging evidence suggests that Latino immigration poses a growing threat to whites, leading them to shift their support from Latinos to a countervailing group, such as African-Americans (e.g., Meier and Stewart, 1991; Rocha, 2007). First, I examine whether Latino immigration into a community affects the support of white citizens for Latino or African-American membership on school boards. Second, I examine whether white school board members also are influenced by Latino immigration in their responsiveness to Latino and African-American parents. It is likely that the reactions of whites to Latino immigration are conditioned by their preexisting racial attitudes, so this dissertation also tests competing theories of community racial climate—group threat and group contact. I expect that racial tensions within a community should moderate the influence of Latino immigration on these two forms of Latino and African-American representation. Overall, this dissertation expands the study of representative bureaucracy by combining past research on community racial climates with conditions influencing minority representation. In addition to examining the determinants of passive representation, this dissertation links expectations of the racial behavior of white citizens with the behavior of white school board members by considering the possibility that school board members express “discriminatory intent” (Mendez and Grose, 2014) on non-policy related matters. A better understanding of the determinants of public officials’ personal biases should help to explain the targeting of substantive policy benefits to minorities, which is the focus of much other representative bureaucracy research. While I base my analysis of school board membership on inferences of white voter behavior from aggregate election results, I directly measure white school board member responsiveness using data gathered from a novel randomized field experiment and e-mail audit design. Representative bureaucracy researchers have called for more of this type of individual-level data to help explain minority advocacy (Bradbury and Kellough, 2011).