The President and Representative Bureaucracy: Rhetoric and Reality

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Abstract

Policy makers have long recognized the importance of achieving a representative federal bureaucracy, but the four most recent presidents have expressed divergent views about policies designed to achieve this goal. Meanwhile, there have been widespread perceptions among federal employees that the administrations' ideologies have had a direct impact on the opportunities of minorities, women, and white men for advancement. Using government-wide data from 1979 to 1996, this article examines whether such employment opportunities have varied in the manner suggested by these perceptions. We find little evidence of a correlation between the president's views on affirmative action and minority and female representation in the overall federal workforce. Moreover, the curtailment of promotion opportunities during the Reagan and Clinton administrations has affected all groups nearly equally. Potential presidential influence has been more notable in the representation of women and minorities in politically appointed and career senior executive jobs. We conclude that equal employment opportunity and affirmative action policies have remained basically intact during the 18-year period, but that recent court decisions, along with efforts to reduce the size of government, may slow progress toward achieving a representative bureaucracy.

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