Race, representation, and policy attitudes in U.S. public schools

Lael R. Keiser, Donald P. Haider-Markel, Rajeev Darolia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Numerous institutions, such as the police, public schools, legislatures, and the courts face criticism for a lack of diversity and representation. According to various political theorists, the lack of representation of marginalized groups in public institutions worsens citizen attitudes. In response, some advocate for increasing passive representation within public institutions. However, different schools of thought exist about whether increasing representation of minorities is a zero-sum game and worsens attitudes of historical majorities. We generate and test two hypotheses from these competing perspectives. We employ data from a national survey of students’ attitudes toward the fairness of school discipline using measures that match the different mechanisms found in theory. We find evidence that passive representation for African Americans predicts perceptions of fairness and corresponds to improved, rather than worsened, attitudes for whites. This supports the arguments of Mosher, and others, that increasing the representation of groups enhances legitimacy among the polity as a whole and is not zero-sum.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-848
Number of pages26
JournalPolicy Studies Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Policy Studies Organization.


  • education policy
  • policy attitudes
  • representative bureaucracy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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