Representative Bureaucracies

1083 Words 5 Pages
Demographic changes in the United States have led to challenges for public organizations that are tasked with serving shifting target populations (Pitts, 2007). As public administration scholars, we are tasked with understanding the importance of these recent changes in ethnic diversity and its impact on policy making. This paper seeks to answer the following proposed questions: 1) Does descriptive representation matter in bureaucracies? 2) Does descriptive representation lead to policy formulation and implementation representative of all interest? Of the literature reviewed, the accepted consensus is that descriptive representation is important and generally leads to representative policy making and application.
Bureaucracies are political
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Meier (1975) proposes the idea that race and gender should be the primary focus because they are the most salient characteristics in the United States and have the largest impact on policy-relevant attitudes. Given the limitations associated with a limited focus, researchers are readily proposing other characteristics such as age, religion, sexual orientation, and disability that could potentially influence behavior (Kelly, 1998). These characteristics outline the context in which representative bureaucracy is necessary, and by the importance of the characteristics, some researchers say that representative bureaucracy is always necessary. In addition to when representative bureaucracy should be used, Meier and Bohte (2001) find that representative bureaucracy should be used when “the bureaucrats in question have discretion”, “policy decision have direct relevance to the passively represented groups”, and when there is a way to “link the bureaucrat to a specific policy output”. In addition, bureaucrats typically serving in street- and upper-level bureaucracy based positions should also make use of representative bureaucracy. Given the hierarchical positioning of bureaucrats, they will, for the most part, always have discretion over …show more content…
Using data collected from Texas’s school district many researchers have sought to better seek the relevance of representative bureaucrats (teachers) at the street-level. Since it is highly unlikely that administrators in both the individual schools as well as the district at large are able to spend a substantial amount of time devoted to individual teachers, they hypothesize that teacher discretion is likely to increase. Not only do they have control over the lesson plan, and course materials, they each have an individualized way of teaching in the classroom. Meier and Bohte (2001) sought to measure the discretion held at the street-level by teachers in the Texas school system and its impact on representative bureaucracy. Controlling for other factors linked to student performance (socioeconomic status, class size, teacher education, teacher training, student ethnicity, school finances, district enrollment and Anglo pass rate), they assessed the relationship between structure and representation. There was a correlation between minority teachers and minority students pass rates. Furthermore, organizational structures, much like that of a school, that enhance discretion are desirable because they transform passive representation into active representation for minority populations. Overall their findings suggest discretion strengthens the relationship

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