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The Behavior and Success of Latino Legislators: Evidence from the States

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Abstract:

Objectives.

Research on the link between descriptive and substantive representation has focused almost exclusively on women and African Americans. In the last two decades, Latino representation in state legislatures has more than doubled, yet scholars have only begun to examine the policy interests and legislative success of these legislators. The objectives of this study are to test a descriptive representation model, in which the ethnicity of the legislator influences legislative behavior even after accounting for the ethnic composition of the district, and to examine ethnic differences in legislative success. Methods.

Multivariate regression analyses are used to examine the effect of legislator ethnicity and district composition on bill sponsorship, committee service, and bill passage in seven U.S. legislatures. Results.

I find that both constituency composition and the ethnicity of the legislator influence legislative behavior. The success of measures sponsored by Latino legislators varies substantially across states. Conclusions.

I conclude that both the ethnicity of the legislator and the composition of the district influence legislative behavior and success. There is clear support for a descriptive representation model of agenda setting, particularly on issues involving immigration. However, this link between descriptive and substantive varies substantially by political context.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6237.2006.00420.x

Affiliations: Louisiana State University

Publication date: December 1, 2006

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