Skip to Main Content

Socioeconomic Representation: Expanding the Theory of Representative Bureaucracy

Journal Title Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Published Date April 01, 2020
Research Type
Authors Katie Vinopal


To date, representative bureaucracy scholarship has primarily focused on the potential for increased racial/ethnic and gender representation in the public-sector workforce to improve outcomes for minority and female clients. However, the potential for socioeconomic representation to benefit those from a lower socioeconomic background has not been thoroughly explored. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Cohort 2011 and a student fixed-effects approach, I begin to fill this gap in the literature by investigating whether socioeconomic representation—above and beyond and intersecting with racial and ethnic representation—affects teachers' perceptions of their relationships with students. Heterogeneity by an organizational context likely to affect the saliency of SES is also explored. Overall results show no evidence that SES match between teachers and students influences teachers' rating of relationship quality with students. For low-SES black students, racial representation persists as an important factor in better teacher–student relationships, even controlling for socioeconomic representation. However, for low-SES white students in contexts where SES is likely to be particularly salient, socioeconomic representation has a significant positive effect on teacher–student relationship quality. Results exploring the interaction of racial and socioeconomic representation are also presented. Finally, theoretical and practical implications, as well as directions for future research, are discussed.

Vinopal, K. (2020). Socioeconomic representation: Expanding the theory of representative bureaucracy. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 30(2), 187-201.