Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration: Assessing the Link between Passive and Active Representation for Foreign-Born Clients

K. Jurée Capers, Candis W. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Representative bureaucracy scholars contend that clients are likely to experience greater benefits and more positive policy outcomes from public agencies when bureaucrats share salient demographic characteristics. Despite the large body of evidence that shows a link between passive and active representation, much of the extant representative bureaucracy literature rests on an assumption of group homogeneity. However, racial groups have a great deal of heterogeneity among them, particularly due to immigration patterns. One-fifth of Black Americans have ties to some other country, thus allowing us to leverage heterogeneity among this group to examine who most effectively represents foreign-born clients. Differences between Black native-born bureaucrats and Black foreign-born clients in experiences, socialization processes, and interests may hinder the linkage between passive and active representation for Black immigrants. However, a shared connection to immigration among foreign-born Black clients and Latinx and Asian bureaucrats may facilitate a passive to active representation linkage for Black immigrants. Using fixed effects, comparative relational analytic models, we analyze New York City public school data from the 2005-2006 to 2015-2016 school terms to find that racial representative bureaucracy crosses ethnic lines. Both foreign-born and native-born Black students experience performance gains when taught by a Black teacher. Our research holds implications for understanding the complexities of representation for pan-ethnic groups and emphasizes the challenges that heterogeneity poses for the theory of representative bureaucracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-722
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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