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Race, Sympathy, and Cooperation: An Experimental Test of the Assumptions of Representative Bureaucracy

EasyChair Preprint no. 1151

31 pagesDate: June 10, 2019


The literature on representative bureaucracy contains a great many studies showing a correlation between bureaucrat-client racial congruence and improved outcomes for the latter. Very little research, however, has examined the actual decision process that leads to active representation. Instead, most studies simply assume that any observed correlation arises because bureaucrats are more sympathetic to clients of the same race due to shared experience, values, or culture, which leads them to act in a way that benefits the latter. We investigate this foundational assumption of representative bureaucracy in order to better understand the causal mechanism underlying representation behavior. For theoretical guidance we look to work in psychology suggesting that sympathy is an important predictor of the willingness to cooperate with strangers and, therefore, to cooperate. We adapt two previously validated experiments testing for the antecedents sympathy and cooperative behavior by adding a manipulation that creates racial congruence or discongruence between subjects and a hypothetical partner. We field the two experiments in separate pools of approximately 200 public employees each. The results provide strong support for the underlying assumption of representative bureaucracy that shared characteristics lead to greater sympathy among individuals, but the results are driven exclusively by the response of African American public administrators. Additionally, they indicate that shared race has an indirect impact on the willingness of public administrators to cooperate with a partner and, again, the effect is driven by black subjects.

Keyphrases: Policing, race, representation, representative bureaucracy

BibTeX entry
BibTeX does not have the right entry for preprints. This is a hack for producing the correct reference:
  author = {Jill Nicholson-Crotty and Sean Nicholson-Crotty and Danyao Li},
  title = {Race, Sympathy, and Cooperation: An Experimental Test of the Assumptions of Representative Bureaucracy},
  howpublished = {EasyChair Preprint no. 1151},

  year = {EasyChair, 2019}}
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