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Revisiting Descriptive Representation in Congress: Assessing the Effect of Race on the Constituent- Legislator Relationship

Revisiting Descriptive Representation in Congress

Summary of Theory or Hypothesis:

Congress is a legislative body of the United States, having representation of multiple ethnicities and races from all over the country. The descriptive representation of multiple races in this body, i.e., congress, and the overall effect of such racial representation on constituent and legislator relationships is significant. It is an immense need to estimate the validity and positivity of such a relationship on a scientific basis. So, the hypothesis of this study revolves around the improvement of constituent-legislator relationship due to races and respective representation in congress. This is a two-way process where the study intends to know about the MCs’ behavior and respective perceptions by the constituents. Present research questions about the representation of various racial minorities like blacks and Latinos in response to the legislative process and these races’ satisfaction.

Literature Review:

Grose (2011) concluded that the descriptive representation should pose constructive impacts in the case of various ethnicities and races concerning MCs. Such relationships have roots across the whole race or ethnicity to which the respective MC belongs. Naturally, the respective MC represents miseries of those people to whom they belong. In this context, it is usually observed from the past practice that black MCs better represent and secure the rights of Blacks in policy matters.

The review of literature is much relevant to the topic of this study. However, the conclusion by Grose shows the strong bond of descriptive representation to the legislation for any MCs’ people. It relates that racial and minorities’ interests can only be best secured if their representatives describe them in congress. Both public and MCs have common miseries. So, the above piece of the literature review is much relevant. Banducci et al. (2004) found that blacks and Latinos can easily recall their MCs’ names compared to other strata of the general public. People can contact them quickly and also prove a watchdog regarding their performance.

This piece of literature is relevant to the current study as it describes the strong bond between MC and the respective racial masses. We can easily estimate MCs’ level of care and pain, which ultimately urges them to perform better in the policy-making process.

Data used in the Study:

The researchers used large-sample public opinion data for this study, i.e., Cooperative Congressional Election, 2008. The primary variables in this regard measure whether the respondents of the study were descriptive represented or not. The samples were converted to subsamples with identical estimated models as white non-Latinos (η = 24,834), a sample of African Americans (η = 3,419), and a sample of Latinos (n = 2,779). In addition, the models include multiple control variables on two levels, which are individual and house district level.

Discussion of Findings:

The evidence and findings of this study support the hypothesis that the descriptive representation improves the proposed relationship i.e., constituent-legislator. It is worth noting that numerous variables depict the strong relations between constituents and MC if both belong to the same party. Results show that 2.8% public can recall the Projects that MC brought to the district, while 19% can recall the correct ethnicity of MC. The overall solid and consistent role is evaluated regarding the constituent-legislator relationship.


Bowen, D. C., & Clark, C. J. (2014). Revisiting descriptive representation in Congress: Assessing the effect of race on the constituent–legislator relationship. Political Research Quarterly67(3), 695-707.

Banducci, S. A., Donovan, T., & Karp, J. A. (2004). Minority representation, empowerment, and participation. The Journal of Politics66(2), 534-556.

Grose, C. R. (2011). Congress in black and white: Race and representation in Washington and at home. Cambridge University Press



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