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Do Interest Groups Represent the Disadvantaged? Advocacy at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Gender



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Erratum Volume 69, Issue 1, 281, Article first published online: 29 January 2007

Dara Strolovitch is assistant professor of political science, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55455.


How well do interest groups represent the disadvantaged? I examine the policy advocacy of national organizations that represent marginalized groups, focusing on the extent to which they advocate on behalf of intersectionally disadvantaged subgroups of their membership. Combining quantitative analysis of original data from a survey of organizations with information from in-depth interviews, I find that organizations are substantially less active when it comes to issues affecting disadvantaged subgroups than they are when it comes to issues affecting more advantaged subgroups. In spite of sincere desires to represent disadvantaged members, organizations downplay the impact of such issues and frame them as narrow and particularistic in their effect, while framing issues affecting advantaged subgroups as if they affect a majority of their members and have a broad and generalized impact. Consequently, issues affecting advantaged subgroups receive considerable attention regardless of their breadth of impact, whereas issues affecting disadvantaged subgroups do not.