Un-packing the theory of representative bureaucracy
Bradbury, Mark Daniel
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The theory of representative bureaucracy suggests that a demographically diverse public sector workforce (passive representation) will lead to policy outcomes that reflect the interests of all groups represented, including historically disadvantaged communities (active representation). Implicit in the passive-active link is the expectation that minority public administrators, in particular, will have similar attitudes to minority citizens on issues of critical import and relevance, and those attitudes, in turn, will influence policy decisions. This research examined the attitudes of citizens and administrators on a series of survey questions focused on the responsibilities of local government administrators to advocate for the interests of the African American community. The survey results confirm the hypothesis that African American citizens and administrators are more likely to support governmental behaviors that specifically target the interests of the African American community. An equally compelling pattern suggests that African American citizens and White administrators hold markedly different attitudes. These results support the research hypothesis that African American citizens and employees are more likely to support the types of behaviors and policies commonly associated with representative bureaucracy. Furthermore, attitude congruence was shown to be a significant predictor of the adoption of a minority advocacy role. The research also employed the tool of attitude prediction to provide an explicit measure of the degree to which administrators could identify the preferences of the African American community. Although the research hypothesis that African American administrators could more accurately predict the views of African American citizens could not be confirmed, the accuracy of prediction was significantly related to the adoption of the minority advocacy role. Overall, these findings suggest that demographic backgrounds and socialization experiences significantly influence attitudes regarding the desirability of a government workforce that seeks to represent the preferences of historically disadvantaged groups and the adoption of the minority advocacy role, and thereby expands our understanding of critical aspects of the theory of representative bureaucracy.