The expectation in a representative democracy is that the preferences of the public should influence the behavior of elected officials in Congress. Most scholars agree that this is indeed the case, but they argue that legislators' responsiveness has recently declined. Members of Congress seem to disproportionately represent the interests of their co-partisans and of high-income Americans. Is there also a racial disparity in representation, even after accounting for income? Are white Americans better represented in government decisions than are African Americans and Latinos? I use multilevel regression and post-stratification (MRP) to estimate district- and state-level public opinion by racial group, and consequently explore its relationship with legislators' voting behavior in Congress.


Do negative stereotypes associated with African Americans and Latinos affect public opinion on policies that impact racial minorities? I conduct a series of survey experiments to explore the effect of racial and linguistic stereotypes on support for race-targeted policies. I utilize a series of different racial cues, including black- and Hispanic-sounding names in online communications, pictures of black and white individuals in social media, and black and white actors in a video recorded in the field. Similarly, I present research subjects with the same information delivered by the same individual in English or in Spanish. These surveys gauge the effects of racial and linguistic stereotypes on attitudes toward different race-targeted social policies (e.g., views of the police, federal spending on Puerto Rico) and race relations (e.g., types of discrimination, Black Lives Matter). 

Descriptive Representation

Racial and ethnic minority groups tend to be underrepresented in legislative bodies relative to their share of the population. Political scientists contend that one way to increase political equality among racial minority groups is to elect more minority legislators. The race of elected officials has been found to have explanatory power to predict political outcomes, such as increased political participation of minorities and the representation of minorities' interests in policy. But do the benefits of descriptive representation require a specific match? That is, do minorities achieve greater political equality only when they are represented by a member of the same minority group? Or will any minority do? I answer these questions using an audit study in New York City. Like other audit studies, I assume that individuals from different racial/ethnic groups can be identified through their distinctive names, and that names can serve as subtle cues that activate latent out-group animus. Unlike other audit studies, (i) I work with real (as opposed to hypothetical) constituents in New York City to email their elected officials (ii) at three levels of government (municipal, state, and federal). Furthermore, (iii) the data allow me to answer questions of co-minority bias by also studying how legislators who are themselves from racial minorities respond to communication from constituents of their same minority group as opposed to constituents from a different minority group.