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Minority Chairs and Congressional Attention to Minority Issues: The Effect of Descriptive Representation in Positions of Institutional Power


  • The author will share all data and coding for replication purposes. The authors thank Adrienne Reyes Tickle for her diligent research assistance. This project was partially supported by a grant from the AUM Research Grant-in-Aid Program.



Marginalization of minority issues from the congressional agenda is widely recognized as a hurdle to the functional representation of African Americans and Latinos. This article examines whether the descriptive representation of minorities in positions of influence helps to address this marginalization.


Logistic regression analysis of over 27,000 hearings held in the U.S. House of Representatives between 1979 and 2008 examines whether congressional hearings addressing minority interest issues were more likely to occur under Latino and African-American committee and subcommittee chairs.


Findings reveal hearings chaired by Latinos and African Americans were more likely to address civil rights, social welfare, and housing issues.


These findings confirm that descriptive representation in positions with influence over committee agendas facilitates institutional attention to minority issues, and suggests that the acquisition of institutional power by black and Latino representatives is critical to the functional representation of minority interests.