WikiSummary, the Social Science Summary Database

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

From WikiSummary, the Free Social Science Summary Database

This summary needs formatting (i.e. "wikification"). Can you help us improve it? (Formatting help.) Please volunteer.

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.

  • Author's summary of results: Racial/ethnic diversity explains much of the variation in the grouping of state political cultures. Increased minority diversity (bifurcation) is associated with lower overall education and social policy outcomes. But when the policies are disaggregated by race, we find that policies for minorities are especially poor in homogeneous states. The unique contribution of the diversity interpretation is that it can account for policy variation in the aggregate, as well as with respect to specific policies as they affect minorities. Previous research concerning race and public policy addresses the former (aggregate) outcomes, but does not anticipate nor explain the latter, especially the dynamics of racelethnicity in homogeneous contexts. Also, different types of "political pluralism"-consensual, competitive, and hierarchical-are associated with varying levels of raciallethnic diversity.

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.


  • Policy outcomes are worse 'in the aggregate' (for everybody) but better for minorities (relative to whites) when diversity is high. What if they had controlled for each state's income per capita (which is correlated with both X and Y)? State wealth clearly contributes to all these outcomes.
  • Bifurcation (X) is blacks/Latinos/Asians, but then (for Y) they use black health and black education scores; what about Latinos and Asians?
  • Graduation rates are a poor proxy for policy outcomes. Why not look at education spending?