How Does Political Structure Matter for the Election of Nonwhite Women and Men into State and Local Offices?
Posted: 29 Mar 2010
The underrepresentation of women and minorities in popularly elected offices has been among the most puzzling phenomenon in American politics. Whereas there is a long line of research looking into this issue and with particular attention paid to elements in the political structure, much of the literature is segmented either by a singular focus on women (who are mostly White) or on Blacks and Latinos (who are mostly male). Largely missing from the literature is a systematic understanding of elected officials situated at the intersection of race and gender. Moreover, scholars disagree on whether and how political structure matters for these political minorities serving in state legislatures, city halls, county boards or commissions, and local school boards. In this paper, we shall examine the relationship between male and female elected officials of Black, Latino, Asian, and American Indian descent in terms of three types of political structure: a. formal (electoral system and laws), b. semi-formal (political parties and organizations), and c. informal (civic associations and social movement groups). We shall assess the relative importance of these political structural features and compare them to racial group characteristics and other factors in explaining the election of men and women of color into state and local offices.
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