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Hero and Tolbert: A racial/ethnic diversity interpretation of politics and policy in the states of the US

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Hero and Tolbert. 1996. A racial/ethnic diversity interpretation of politics and policy in the states of the US. American Journal of Political Science 40: 851-871.

THEORY: This paper examines a new interpretation of politics in the states of the U.S.-that racial and ethnic diversity, and the levels and types of this diversity, are central to understanding politics and policy in the states. We conceptualize and statistically model states in terms of their homogeneous, heterogeneous, or bifurcated raciallethnic composition.

HYPOTHESIS: Racial/ethnic diversity provides a theoretical and empirical explanation for policy variations in the states.

METHODS: Data are used to develop two measures of racial/ethnic diversity: an index of minority diversity (blacks/latinos/Asians) and white ethnic diversity (southern/eastern Europeans). These indices are not correlated.

RESULTS: Minorities have higher graduation rates (relative to whites) and lower infant mortality rates (relative to whites) in more diverse states, although diverse states have lower total graduation rates and higher total infant mortality rates. (Thus, policy outcomes are worse 'in the aggregate' (for everybody) but better for minorities when diversity is high.) "English only" laws are most common in racially diverse states but least common in ethnically (white) diverse states. At a county level, homogeneous counties were more likely to (1) vote for Perot and (2) support CA prop 187.

ELAZAR identified political subcultures. Hero and Tolbert explain where they came from (859). Using descriptive and inferential statistics, the authors find that homogeneous states are Moralistic, heterogeneous states are Individualistic, and bifurcated states are Traditionalists (see pg 853). In fact, the authors explain why this might be: In homogeneous states, politics is a "family feud." Partisanship can be high around what Elazar calls "policy relevant" issue areas. In contrast, less "policy-relevant" concerns (i.e. "who gets the jobs") become "political issues" in a heterogeneous setting, since redistribution has higher ethnic and racial stakes.


Of course minorities are better off when they are a bigger part of the population: there is more competition for their votes.


Research on similar subjects


Hero, Rodney (author)Tolbert, Caroline (author)American PoliticsSocial CleavagesState Politics (U.S.)RacismPolitical Subcultures

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