It's All About Race: How State Legislators Respond to Immigrant Constituents
54 Pages Posted: 17 Jul 2017 Last revised: 9 Aug 2017
Date Written: July 8, 2017
How do elected representatives respond to the needs of immigrant constituents? We report the results of a field experiment on U.S. state legislators in which the nativity, likelihood of voting, and race/ethnicity of a hypothetical constituent are independently manipulated. The experimental design allows us to contribute new insights by isolating the various elements that may impede the connection between immigrants and elected representatives. Moreover, we explore racial/ethnic identities beyond black and white, by including Latino and Asian aliases. Contrary to expectations, nativity and voting status do not affect responsiveness. Instead, legislator behavior appears to be driven by racial/ethnic bias. Whites benefit from the highest degree of responsiveness, with blacks, Hispanics, and Asians all receiving lower response rates, respectively. This bias follows a partisan logic. Hispanic constituents receive lower responsiveness primarily from Republican legislators, while Asians experience discrimination from representatives of both parties. We argue that this difference may result from Hispanic identity sending a stronger signal about partisan affiliation, or from a prejudicial view of Asians as outsiders. In this interpretation, rather than the model minority, Asians become the excluded minority.
Keywords: American politics, experiment, audit, race
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