Title page for ETD etd-07102008-120225

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Rouse, Stella M.
Author's Email Address srouse1@lsu.edu
URN etd-07102008-120225
Title Latino Representation in U.S. Legislatures: Interests, Behavior, and Influence
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Kathleen A. Bratton Committee Chair
James C. Garand Committee Co-Chair
Leonard P. Ray Committee Member
William A. Clark Committee Member
Craig M. Freeman Dean's Representative
  • minorities
  • state politics
  • legislative actions
  • legislative process
  • characterisitcs of representation
Date of Defense 2008-06-26
Availability unrestricted
Despite the growth of Latinos in the general population and in legislatures, their impact on the political process has received little scholarly attention. In this project, I present a theoretical framework of Latino legislative behavior that draws upon two important concepts of representation- descriptive and substantive- to better understand how ethnicity influences legislative activity and whether it is dependent on such factors as institutional context, legislative composition, and constituency characteristics.

The project is unique in its comprehensive analysis of the legislative process and in its mixed methodological approach which includes both quantitative and qualitative elements. The analysis involves five parts: agenda setting, committee participation, roll call voting, legislator interviews, and a discussion about defining Latino interests. Previous literature has examined the effects of ethnicity at some stages of representation, but it is difficult to place the strength and significance of those findings in relative terms.

During agenda setting, I find that Latinos are more likely than non-Latinos to sponsor legislation narrowly defined as “Latino interests,” especially when Latinos make up a small percentage of their party within a chamber. In committee deliberations, the role of ethnicity is more inconsistent; the ethnicity of a legislator and/or the Latino saliency of a bill significantly affect committee participation in specific legislative chambers. During roll call voting, ethnicity has no discernable impact. In fact, party appears to be the only consistent determinant of roll call activity. The analysis of legislator interviews (both Latino and non-Latino) provides valuable insight into the attitudes, motivations, and intentions of those actually providing representation, and not only serves to support some of the quantitative results, but adds to the overall quality of the research on representation. Finally, a discussion about defining a Latino political agenda reveals that research on Latino issues often relies on legislative initiatives to identify “Latino interests” and that these interests are most visible when they are narrowly defined.

This comprehensive project indicates that the role of ethnicity in the legislative process is variable depending on institutional context, extent of political cohesiveness among Latino legislators, and the mechanisms and goals for a particular legislative activity.

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