Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Is Representative Bureaucracy an Organizational-Level Phenomenon? Understanding the Link Between the Racial Composition of a Bureaucracy and Client Outcomes

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Nathan Favero, Texas A&M University
It is now well-established that better representation of a demographic group among the personnel of a bureaucracy can sometimes translate into better outcomes for clientele belonging to the same demographic group. For the most part, existing empirical studies of representative bureaucracy have been unable to identify the exact mechanism(s) by which this effect occurs, although a number of proposals have been made in the literature. This paper begins to open the black box of representation effects by considering whether such effects function through purely individual-level processes (with bureaucrats of a particular demographic group affecting only those clients with whom they directly interact) or if there is also an organizational-level element (with bureaucrats somehow contributing to the broader functioning or image of their organization and thus affecting clients whom they do not directly serve).

This study uses a carefully designed quantitative analysis to unpack the question of whether representation functions at an organizational-level to any extent. I examine a set of organizations—public schools—where there is a well-established link between the demographic makeup of personnel and outcomes for minority clients. A panel dataset for more than 8,000 California public schools over a 13-year period (2000-2012) was constructed from publicly available data. The dataset includes both grade-level and school-level measures of the percentage of teachers belonging to each racial/ethnic group within each school. Using grade-level measures of student performance on standardized exams by race, I estimate whether students are affected only by the racial composition of teachers at their own grade level or if they are also affected by the racial composition of the teachers throughout the rest of the school. I include a set of control variables measuring other teacher characteristics, student demographic characteristics, and school resources. The large number of cases provides sufficient statistical power to obtain reasonably precise coefficient estimates despite multicollinearity between the two measures of teachers’ race.

The results of this study have important implications for both theory and practice. For the theory of representative bureaucracy, understanding the degree to which characteristics of various bureaucrats are effectively aggregated within an organization will inform scholarly understanding of the role of unelected bureaucrats and their identities in a democracy. On a practical level, discovering to what extent minority personnel influence the organizational-level functioning of a school or other organization can help inform managers as they make decisions about where within their organization to most strongly push diversity recruitment efforts and where minority personnel might be most effectively utilized within the organization. In the realm of education research, the results of this study can aid in creating a better understanding of to what extent teachers play important roles outside their own classrooms. If teachers affect students outside their own classrooms in significant ways, this even has implications for how teacher effects should be modeled by researchers.