The politics and policy implications of Latino representation in education
Shah, Paru Radha
Marschall, Melissa J.
Doctor of Philosophy
This study seeks to answer the following broad questions: Under what confluence of institutional and contextual factors is the election of a minority candidate more likely (descriptive representation)? And once elected, do these minority representatives realize their potential to impact public policies or the political attitudes of their constituents (substantive representation)? Recent demographic shifts have moved American cities away from a simple Black/White dichotomy, and thus my goal in this study is to evaluate and extend the present theories and models of representation to other racial minorities. Specifically, I examine the extent of descriptive and substantive representation of Latinos in the educational arena. I find that the current theories of minority representation built upon the unique Black American experience in the US are insufficient to explain the political incorporation of Latinos. Specifically, I find that Latinos face additional challenges to incorporation and subsequent policy or empowerment effects based on their immigration and citizenship histories, their country-of-origin and generational diversity, and their particular assimilation and acculturation processes. As I demonstrate, these additional factors condition the likelihood of Latino representation on school boards, as well as the ability of these Latino representatives to enact policy changes or create empowerment effects among Latino constituents. I argue that these findings have important implications for ensuring representative democracy for Latinos and for educational policy outcomes.