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Motivating Participation: The Symbolic Effects of Latino Representation on Parent School Involvement


  • *Direct correspondence to Paru Shah, Macalester College, Department of Political Science, 1600 Grand Ave., Saint Paul, MN 55015 〈〉. The data and coding for this project were funded by NSF Grant SES-0400488 and are available on request from Paru Shah. An earlier version of this aticle was presented at the 2007 Annual Southern Political Science Meeting. Paru Shah thanks Melissa Marschall and Anirudh Ruhil for their comments on this article, as well as the two anonymous reviewers and Robert Lineberry at SSQ.


Objective. Decades of research suggest that parental involvement is vital for positive student academic achievement and thus one often-proposed solution to alleviate the poor educational outcomes of minority students is to increase their parents' participation in school. Building on a psychological motivation argument, I investigate how the symbolic effects of minority representation impact minority parent involvement.

Method. I test my hypotheses with original survey data from 324 Latino parents in Chicago.

Results. My analysis suggests that, as hypothesized in the symbolic representation literature, Latinos in positions of power within schools send important heuristic cues to Latino parents that change their orientations to participation and ultimately manifest as increased school involvement.

Conclusions. These results support education policies that attempt to increase the minority presence in schools at the administrative and governance levels, and highlight the need for greater enforcement of current diversity requirements under NCLB.