Political Science Minority Political Engagement and Representation in the United States
by
Jessica Carew
  • LAST REVIEWED: 19 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 August 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0128

Introduction

One of the most important areas of study in the field of political behavior in the United States is that of political engagement (often referred to as “civic engagement” or “civic/political participation”). Political engagement relates to the ways people work to influence the political system and the degree to which they are incorporated into the political structure. In order to understand precisely how and why people choose to participate in the political system, scholars have found it necessary to examine many different influential factors, such as political attitudes, perceptions of political efficacy, the influence of various forms of representation, and elements that hinder or encourage seeking political office, among many others. Given the importance of this subfield of study in the context of American democracy, academics have devoted a great deal of attention, both theoretically and empirically, to this subject, particularly since the mid-20th century. The vast majority of the extant research concerning political engagement in the United States has centered on general understandings of the opinion and behavior of the broader American population; however, these studies have been heavily weighted in terms of the engagement of white American populations and have largely ignored the legal, social, and economic barriers that directly influence the structures and realities of racial minority political engagement. Increasingly, the discipline of political science is recognizing the necessity of examining political engagement among minority groups, especially since the civil rights movement’s efforts to place enough pressure on the political system to effect legal and political change. The increasing sociopolitical visibility of racial and ethnic minorities within the United States, in conjunction with increasing numbers of members of these groups in academic settings (many of whom also examine political behavior among minorities), has led to a burgeoning field of study concerning minority political engagement. The resulting subfield of minority political engagement in the United States has increased the breadth and depth of scholarship concerning political participation. Scholars have combined both conceptual and group-based approaches in order to elucidate the ways in which the four main racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States (African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians) work to engage the political system. In order to develop a full picture of past, current, and prospective political engagement within and among these groups, scholars have focused on a wide variety of topics, including the development of group consciousness, group mobilization, participation in electoral and nonelectoral political activity, and political representation. Other areas of theoretical importance in the study of minority political engagement include immigration, assimilation, political empowerment and incorporation, and intersectional identity (especially in terms of race, ethnicity, and gender.)

General Overviews

There are various texts that examine racial and ethnic minority groups in the American political system. Of particular importance, McClain and Stewart 2013, Garcia 2011, Wilkins and Stark 2010, Walton and Smith 2014, Chang 2002, and Shaw, et al. 2014 provide sociopolitical examinations of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians in the United States. Further, by way of these examinations, these texts illuminate how each group is uniquely situated within the nation with regard to political engagement and the reasons as to why there is variation among these groups with regard to engagement. In its third edition, Browning, et al. 2002 examines multiracial and multiethnic urban politics by way of case studies of specific cities to demonstrate more directly the ways in which minority groups work for political incorporation in city politics. Junn and Haynie 2008 provides a broad array of perspectives demonstrating how minority political engagement is evolving in the 21st century, particularly in the context of racial and ethnic minority immigration. A more extensive examination of minority immigrant political engagement can be found in Ramakrishnan 2006.

  • Browning, Rufus P., Dale Rogers Marshall, and David H. Tabb, eds. Racial Politics in American Cities. 3d ed. New York: Pearson, 2002.

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    This updated edited volume continues to provide invaluable evidence regarding minority political engagement in urban politics by examining inter- and intra-racial political relations in case studies of many cities across the United States. Emphasizes the importance of local-level analysis for minority political engagement.

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  • Chang, Gordon, ed. Asian Americans and Politics: Perspectives, Experiences, Prospects. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002.

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    A rich edited volume that provides a wide variety of approaches to the increasing importance of Asian Americans in the American political system. Provides important theoretical frameworks, including Claire Jean Kim’s “Racial Triangulation,” and various perspectives on panethnic political engagement among Asian Americans.

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  • Garcia, John A. Latino Politics in America: Community, Culture, and Interests. 2d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011.

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    Emphasizes recognizing the importance of community and ethnic subgroup linkages when examining Latino political engagement. Balances the recognition of “Latino” as a panethnic categorization with in-depth historical and sociopolitical examinations of Latino subgroups, which all lead to important discussions of political orientations, engagement, and policy positions and challenges.

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  • Junn, Jane, and Kerry L. Haynie, eds. New Race Politics in America: Understanding Minority and Immigrant Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511790577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Important edited volume for understanding the dynamic nature of multiracial and multiethnic politics. Chapters examine the continuing evolution of minority political engagement and quest for inclusion in the context of the move away from the black-white dichotomy with changing US demographics.

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  • McClain, Paula D., and Joseph Stewart Jr. “Can We All Get Along?”: Racial and Ethnic Minorities in American Politics. 6th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2013.

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    Provides a broad and extensive overview of the four main racial and ethnic minority groups in the United States (African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and American Indians). Examines demographics, opinion, political orientations, and engagement. Additional focus is on interminority group relations.

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  • Ramakrishnan, S. Karthick. Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

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    Addresses the gap in scholarship on immigrant racial and ethnic minority political participation. Examines both traditional and immigrant-centered models of electoral and nonelectoral political engagement with a wide variety of data sources. Provides suggestions for future study of immigrant political behavior with regard to both policy and research.

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  • Shaw, Todd, Louis DeSipio, Dianne Pinderhughes, and Toni-Michelle C. Travis. Uneven Roads: An Introduction to U.S. Racial and Ethnic Politics. Los Angeles: CQ, 2014.

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    Comprehensive examination of the main racial and ethnic minority groups in the context of how they are intricately woven into the complicated web of the US political system. Provides extensive political history of each group and a thorough examination of important current social and political issues.

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  • Walton, Hanes, Jr., and Robert C. Smith. American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2014.

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    Under the framework of the denial of the promise of and core value of freedom in the United States, this work examines the political engagement of African Americans in American politics across all facets of the political arena. Structure mirrors that of American government textbooks and is framed around political behavior and institutions.

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  • Wilkins, David E., and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark. American Indian Politics and the American Political System. 3d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010.

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    Essential reading on the relationship between American Indians and US politics. Frames the examination with the recognition of American Indians as nations, not minorities. Provides in-depth historical and political examination of US federal policy and American Indians as political actors. In-depth examination of American Indian political ideologies, orientations, and activism.

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Group Consciousness and Mobilization

In order to begin any meaningful discussion regarding minority political engagement, it is crucial to examine the topics of group identity and consciousness. It is necessary to understand why minority groups exist and the degree to which group members actually identify with those groups. Without this identification, there can be no movement toward the collective perceptions needed to engage in the political system on behalf of the group. As such, it is necessary to investigate the concept of the identity-to-politics link, as presented in Lee 2008. A major component of this concept is that of racial (and ethnic) group consciousness, which is often measured in terms of feelings of linked fate among group members, as discussed in Lee 2008 and Smith 2014. Miller, et al. 1981 and Jackson 1987 provide various conceptual and theoretical foundations of current understandings and measurements of group consciousness (which relates to the politicization of group identity) and political participation. Various examinations, such as Min 2014, Junn and Masuoka 2008, Chong and Rogers 2005, Sanchez 2006, Sanchez and Masuoka 2010, and Smith 2014, have demonstrated that group consciousness, measured by feelings of closeness and linked fate, has a direct effect on politicizing racial and ethnic groups and on mobilizing them. Miller, et al. 1981; Jackson 1987; Sanchez 2006; and Min 2014 focus on the effects of group consciousness within one racial or ethnic group. Given the panethnic nature of the categories of “Latino” and “Asian American,” Min 2014 and Sanchez 2006 model the necessity of focusing on developing theoretical frameworks that account for group consciousness at both the ethnic origin and panethnic levels. Of particular importance, literature of this type highlights that traditional political science frameworks are not always applicable to racial and ethnic minority politics. Sanchez 2006 and Lee 2008 also caution that frameworks developed concerning one racial and/or ethnic group should not automatically be assumed to apply to other minority groups. Junn and Masuoka 2008 and Smith 2014 provide examples of the burgeoning and important trend of examining the degree to which there is group consciousness between and among multiple racial and ethnic minority groups that can lead to greater political engagement. For a more in-depth examination of these concepts, see McClain, et al. 2009.

  • Chong, Dennis, and Reuel Rogers. “Racial Solidarity and Political Participation.” Political Behavior 27.4 (2005): 347–374.

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    Challenges the findings that racial group solidarity has declined in its influence on African American political participation. Notes previous measures of solidarity did not adequately account for both group identification and consciousness. Authors find that racial solidarity influences African American political engagement broadly but not in terms of voter turnout.

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  • Jackson, Byran O. “The Effects of Racial Group Consciousness on Political Mobilization in American Cities.” The Western Political Quarterly 40.4 (1987): 631–646.

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    Argues politicization of group identity (by way of group consciousness) is a precondition for black group mobilization. Utilizes earlier, alternative measures of racial consciousness (group efficacy and individual-versus-system blame), as compared to current measures. Concludes ethnic politics model has limited applicability for explaining black mobilization and group cohesion.

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  • Junn, Jane, and Natalie Masuoka. “Identities in Context: Politicized Racial Group Consciousness Among Asian American and Latino Youth.” Applied Developmental Science 12.2 (2008): 93–101.

    DOI: 10.1080/10888690801997234Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates group consciousness among Asian American and Latino youth. Frames examination in the understanding that these groups are racialized as non-white in the United States and cannot fully assimilate in a way that decreases the likelihood of racial group consciousness. Examines the degree to which priming group pride can influence feelings of solidarity.

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  • Lee, Taeku. “Race, Immigration, and the Identity-to-Politics Link.” Annual Review of Political Science 11.1 (2008): 457–478.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.11.051707.122615Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Lee thoroughly examines the assumption that racialized immigrant groups will automatically meld into our existing political frameworks. Cautions against assuming that racialized immigrant populations will approach political engagement based on race and ethnicity. Provides five distinct processes of the identity-to-politics link, each of which is essential to examine contextually.

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  • McClain, Paula D., Jessica D. Johnson Carew, Eugene Walton, and Candis S. Watts. “Group Membership, Group Identity, and Group Consciousness: Measures of Racial Identity in American Politics?” Annual Review of Political Science 12.1 (2009): 471–485.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.10.072805.102452Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides a conceptual differentiation among the categories of group membership, identification, and consciousness. Clearly defines each concept in a way that can aid students in better understand the influence of race and ethnicity on political incorporation. Warns of dangers of assuming that all racial and ethnic groups form identity, consciousness, and the identity-to-politics link in the same manner.

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  • Miller, Arthur H., Patricia Gurin, Gerald Gurin, and Oksana Malanchuk. “Group Consciousness and Political Participation.” American Journal of Political Science 25.3 (1981): 494–511.

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    Distinguishes group identification and politicized group consciousness. Delineates four components of group consciousness: group identification, polar affect, polar power, and individual-versus-system blame. Uses an interactive model relating to subordinate and dominant groups to demonstrate the effect of group consciousness on electoral and nonelectoral political activity and mobilization.

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  • Min, Tae Eun. “The Impact of Panethnicity on Asian American and Latino Political Participation.” Ethnicities 14.5 (2014): 698–721.

    DOI: 10.1177/1468796813520308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the nuances of panethnic group consciousness among Asian Americans and Latinos in terms of political participation. Takes a multidimensional approach to group consciousness. Finds that greater panethnic group consciousness strengthens nonelectoral involvement for both groups but only decreases electoral involvement among Asian Americans while not influencing Latinos.

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  • Sanchez, Gabriel R. “The Role of Group Consciousness in Political Participation Among Latinos in the United States.” American Politics Research 34.4 (2006): 427–450.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X05284417Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the degree to which traditional theories of the role of group consciousness on political participation can be applied to Latino populations. Works to elucidate the role of group consciousness on political engagement among Latinos. Finds that group consciousness is especially important in the context of participation in Latino-specific activities.

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  • Sanchez, Gabriel R., and Natalie Masuoka. “Brown-Utility Heuristic? The Presence and Contributing Factors of Latino Linked Fate.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 32.4 (2010): 519–531.

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    Examines the degree to which there may be a Brown-Utility Heuristic, as similar to the Black Utility Heuristic developed in Dawson 1994 (cited under African Americans). Finds linked fate among Latinos that is based on common experiences particularly relating to marginalization. This finding may point to a temporary (rather than stable) perception of Latino linked fate.

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  • Smith, Candis Watts. Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

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    Important advancement in approach to black political engagement. Notes that blacks are not the monolithic group they are presumed to be and demographics continue to change. Works to parse out differences in group consciousness given Black panethnic diversity in the United States and explores the identity-to-politics link for these groups.

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Political Participation

There is a variety of ways people and groups engage with the US political system. One of the most useful means for categorizing political participation is by separating out activity that falls under traditional participation and that neatly fits into the expectations of the political structure (internal) and nontraditional participation that does not support the foundations of the political system (external). Given the historical de jure and de facto exclusion of racial and ethnic minorities from US sociopolitical institutions, these groups often have been forced to use external engagement activities in order to achieve political progress. Nevertheless, internal engagement activities remain critical for the political incorporation of these groups.

Internal Engagement

There are many activities that fall under the category of internal political engagement. Some of these include voting, working for a political campaign, raising money for and/or giving money to a political campaign or interest group, contacting a political representative, and persuading people to mobilize around an issue, among many others. As is recognized under the many tenets of pluralism (the theoretical framework that politics is a balanced competition among groups), racial and ethnic minority groups have varying degrees of resources (such as money, people, and skills) that are needed to engage in the aforementioned forms of political engagement activity. Resources and capabilities for mobilization directly influence how different minority groups participate in political engagement. Bobo and Gilliam 1990 and Harris, et al. 2005 specifically examine internal engagement among African Americans in the context of black empowerment. Schildkraut 2005 examines Latino political engagement in the context of self-identification and perceptions of discrimination. Bedolla and Michelson 2012 highlights the efficacy of get-out-the-vote campaigns in the context of ethnoracial communities and politics, while Leighley and Nagler 2014 demonstrates the ways in which differences in voter turnout among various groups influence the degree to which they are represented. Wrinkle, et al. 1996 emphasizes the necessity for theoretical and empirical evaluation of ethnic minority nonelectoral participation at the subgroup level. The section on Group Consciousness and Mobilization highlights the importance of looking outside of a single racial or ethnic group consciousness as to also recognize intergroup consciousness, as may or may not be found among many different ethnicities that fall under one panethnic or racial group. The literature on political participation emphasizes a related though distinct idea. Lien 1994; Sundeen, et al. 2009; and Verba, et al. 1993 demonstrate the value of taking a comparative perspective in examining participation among minority groups. Montoya, et al. 2000 and Brown 2014 demonstrate that just as it is necessary to understand the ways different group identities and experiences have an effect on how minority groups engage the political system, it is also important to integrate an intersectional approach that examines the ways multiple salient identities (such as race, ethnicity, gender, class, and so on) influence the motivations for and means by which people engage in political participation.

  • Bedolla, Lisa Garcia, and Melissa R. Michelson. Mobilizing Inclusion: Transforming the Electorate Through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2012.

    DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300166781.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the importance and efficacy of got-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaigns, particularly in the context of racial and ethnic minority groups. Utilizes a sociocultural cognitive model, which focuses on the effects of these campaigns at the individual cognitive level. Finds that GOTV campaigns are effective to the degree that they encourage individuals to develop a personal voter schema.

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  • Bobo, Lawrence, and Franklin D. Gilliam Jr. “Race, Sociopolitical Participation, and Black Empowerment.” American Political Science Review 84.2 (1990): 377–393.

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    Examines the concept of empowerment (alternatively political incorporation) in terms of how black representation in government and influence over the political system affects levels of black political participation. They find that blacks in high empowerment areas with mayoral descriptive representation have higher levels of trust, efficacy, and political activity.

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  • Brown, Nadia E. “Political Participation of Women of Color: An Intersectional Analysis.” Journal of Women, Politics and Policy 35.4 (2014): 315–348.

    DOI: 10.1080/1554477X.2014.955406Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Posits an intersectionality framework for better understanding how different historical narratives and experiences influence individuals with multiple subordinate group identities to participate in the political system differentially. Race/ethnicity and gender operate in conjunction with one another to influence means for political mobilization and participation.

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  • Harris, Fredrick C., Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, and Brian D. McKenzie. “Macrodynamics of Black Political Participation in the Post-Civil Rights Era.” Journal of Politics 67.4 (2005): 1143–1163.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2005.00354.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the importance of the black empowerment and social isolation models in examining the forces that encourage and depress black political participation. Gains in black political empowerment and incorporation can encourage greater rates of political engagement, while negative social and political influences depress engagement.

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  • Leighley, Jan E., and Jonathan Nagler. Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality and Turnout in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.

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    Provides an extensive breakdown of voter turnout based on demographics. Examines the influence of sociopolitical hierarchies on the US electoral system. Demonstrates how these findings concerning voter turnout have influenced political outcomes. Finds that the interests of nonvoters are far less likely to be represented.

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  • Lien, Pei-te. “Ethnicity and Political Participation: A Comparison between Asian and Mexican Americans.” Political Behavior 16.2 (1994): 237–264.

    DOI: 10.1007/BF01498879Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides an extensive examination of the fluidity of the concept of ethnicity and its connection to US political participation. In the context of acculturation, ethnic ties, and group consciousness, this article presents evidence of differing patterns of influence concerning political participation for Asian Americans and Mexican Americans.

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  • Montoya, Lisa J., Carol Hardy-Fanta, and Sonia Garcia. “Latino Politics: Gender, Participation, and Leadership.” PS, Political Science and Politics 33.3 (2000): 555–561.

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    Examination of research on Latino political participation in the context of public opinion, community politics, and elite politics. Main emphasis is on how gender is an important factor in these political engagement areas and how this issue has often been overlooked in the extant literature. Identifies studies that have focused on intersectionality and politics.

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  • Schildkraut, Deborah. “The Rise and Fall of Political Engagement among Latinos: The Role of Identity and Perceptions of Discrimination.” Political Behavior 27.3 (2005): 285–312.

    DOI: 10.1007/s11109-005-4803-9Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines how differences in identification and perceptions of discrimination among Latinos have an influence on their political engagement. Highlights the sociopolitical importance of self-identification and perception among Latinos, and demonstrates how identification and perceptions of discrimination work together to influence Latino political engagement.

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  • Sundeen, Richard A., Cristina Garcia, and Sally A. Raskoff. “Ethnicity, Acculturation, and Volunteering to Organizations A Comparison of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Whites.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 38.6 (2009): 929–955.

    DOI: 10.1177/0899764008322779Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Provides comparative analysis of nonelectoral political engagement by volunteering with organizations among immigrant and native-born racial/ethnic minorities and whites. Posits acculturation accounts for differences in likelihood of this participation and finds a nuanced picture of predictors (acculturation, personal and social resources, gender, and age) of volunteering based on group differences.

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  • Verba, Sidney, Kay Lehman Schlozman, Henry Brady, and Norman H. Nie. “Race, Ethnicity and Political Resources: Participation in the United States.” British Journal of Political Science 23.4 (1993): 453–497.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0007123400006694Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights many of the most significant predictors of political engagement such as education, class, time, and organization involvement (among others). The article presents evidence that when resources are accounted for, there is no significant difference in engagement in political activity among African Americans, Latinos, and Anglo whites.

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  • Wrinkle, Robert D., Joseph Stewart, J. L. Polinard, Kenneth J. Meier, and John R. Arvizu. “Ethnicity and Nonelectoral Political Participation.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 18.2 (1996): 142–153.

    DOI: 10.1177/07399863960182004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses the general lack of theoretical and empirical examination of nonelectoral participation among ethnic minorities. Authors find mobilization is of particular import in terms of nonelectoral participation, while culture and socioeconomic status also play a role. Provides recognition of Latino subgroup participatory difference (especially with regard to Cuban Americans).

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Entering Electoral Politics

While there is a great deal of literature concerning electoral engagement among racial and ethnic minorities, somewhat less attention has been focused upon minorities as they enter the early stages of the representation side of electoral politics. Branton 2009 works to demonstrate the effects of the presence of racial minorities in primary elections. Prindeville 2002 takes an intersectional approach to examining racial/ethnic women who enter electoral politics and highlights the factors that bolster and suppress their likelihood of getting involved. Shah 2014 focuses on the supply side of the relative lack of racial minority political candidates as it examines the factors that influence entry into political races and the likelihood of winning elections.

  • Branton, Regina P. “The Importance of Race and Ethnicity in Congressional Primary Elections.” Political Research Quarterly 62.3 (2009): 459–473.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912908319606Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Increases recognition of the importance of primary election politics, which are largely overlooked in extant literature. Addresses US House of Representatives primary election minority candidate emergence and competition. Finds higher proportions of African Americans and Latinos within a district lead to more and higher-quality African American and Latino candidates and greater electoral competition.

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  • Prindeville, Diane-Michele. “A Comparative Study of Native American and Hispanic Women in Grassroots and Electoral Politics.” Frontiers 23.1 (2002): 67–89.

    DOI: 10.1353/fro.2002.0011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Works to provide a broader understanding of the factors that may increase or decrease the likelihood of American Indian and Latina women seeking to influence both electoral politics and grassroots politics. Emphasizes the influence of gender on traditional understandings of predictors of political engagement.

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  • Shah, Paru. “It Takes a Black Candidate: A Supply-Side Theory of Minority Representation.” Political Research Quarterly 67.2 (2014): 266–279.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912913498827Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the gap in extant literature concerning the entrance of racial minorities as political candidates. Provides examination of the factors that influence their decision to run for office, particularly in terms of demographics, incumbency, and level and type of office sought. Important work for the topic of increasing the number of racial/ethnic minority political candidates.

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Suppression of Electoral Participation

As indicted in the Introduction, historically, racial and ethnic minorities have encountered many legal, political, and social barriers to political engagement. Although sweeping changes to these barriers have been set in place by way of legal protections since the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965, there are still groups that stand to benefit politically, economically, and socially from ensuring that racial and ethnic minorities are less capable of achieving the representation of their interests via electoral politics. Under the auspices of positive political concepts such as preventing voter fraud and lowering local and state government costs, various political parties and interest groups have worked to construct a variety of barriers to electoral participation, such as not upgrading the quality and accessibility of specific voter precincts, implementing mandatory photo identification requirements, restricting the length of early voting, and withholding voter registration information, as discussed in Barreto, et al. 2009; Clarke 2007; Herron and Smith 2014; and Butler and Broockman 2011. The aforementioned research demonstrates that these measures and phenomena have the effect of suppressing electoral engagement among racial and ethnic minorities in a targeted manner.

  • Barreto, Matt A., Mara Cohen-Marks, and Nathan D. Woods. “Are All Precincts Created Equal? The Prevalence of Low-Quality Precincts in Low-Income and Minority Communities.” Political Research Quarterly 62.3 (2009): 445–458.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912908319572Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the issue of “low-quality precincts,” which usually means non-white and low-income neighborhoods. These precincts are more likely to be more difficult to find and less visible, stable, accessible, and user-friendly than other precincts, and this leads to the depression of voter turnout in these precincts.

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  • Butler, Daniel M., and David E. Broockman. “Do Politicians Racially Discriminate Against Constituents? A Field Experiment on State Legislators.” American Journal of Political Science 55.3 (2011): 463–477.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2011.00515.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that white state legislators are less likely to provide constituents with information and help concerning voter registration when the constituent is black, regardless of the partisan affiliation of the legislator. In turn, this sort of political actor behavior could lead to a suppression of political engagement among African Americans, particularly given the higher proportion of white officeholders.

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  • Clarke, Kristen. “Burdening the Right to Vote: Assessing the Impact of Mandatory Photo Identification Requirements on Minority Voting Strength.” Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy 13 (2007): 9–16.

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    Examines effects of state and federal efforts to introduce mandatory photo identification electoral requirements on voting strength of racial and ethnic minority groups. These measures disproportionately burden African American and Latino voters, and Clarke argues for the necessity to incorporate explanations of ongoing voting discrimination into the political debate.

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  • Herron, Michael C., and Daniel A. Smith. “Race, Party, and the Consequences of Restricting Early Voting in Florida in the 2012 General Election.” Political Research Quarterly 67.3 (2014): 646–665.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912914524831Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Comparative analysis of early voting in 2008 and 2012 general elections given a significantly reduced period for early voting in the latter in Florida. Finds that truncated early voting decreased opportunities for political engagement, especially among racial and ethnic minorities, registered Democrats, unaffiliated voters, and those with inflexible schedules.

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External Engagement

As mentioned in Political Participation, minority groups historically have had to find nontraditional ways of influencing the political system because the system has been closed to them in terms of many of the internal forms of political participation, such as voting, running for office, and so on. In order to externally engage the political system, racial and ethnic minority groups have participated in protest activity, boycotts, and general civil disobedience actions in social movement efforts. Gillion 2012 and Gillion 2013 demonstrate that large, forceful, and sustained external engagement activities can have the effect of bringing the major problems faced by minorities to the attention of political actors. Morris 1984 demonstrates the strength of mass protest that is grassroots and indigenous in nature with regard to external political engagement, while highlighting the importance of largely hidden civil rights movement participants, specifically women. Chong 1991 surveys the activity of the civil rights movement in the context of rationality theory and collective action problems in order to better demonstrate the mechanisms behind the rise and fall of the movement. Conversely, McAdam 1999 assesses the activity of the civil rights movement with a structuralist approach by examining the role of institutions in building and compiling the resources necessary for the success of the external engagement tactics that were used. Barreto, et al. 2009 determines that protest activities can build broad group solidarity under the right circumstances. Wallace, et al. 2014 presents evidence showing that protests can have either positive or negative effects on group feelings of trust in government, political efficacy, and political alienation, dependent upon the structure and messages of the these activities. External engagement activities can also bring sociopolitical issues minority groups face to the general public, which may increase popular support for the political changes that are demanded by the groups. Nevertheless, Smith, et al. 2001 shows that the portrayal of these activities by the media can negatively frame the issues at hand and alter the messages the groups are attempting to send to the political system and US society more broadly.

  • Barreto, Matt A., Sylvia Manzano, Ricardo Ramírez, and Kathy Rim. “Mobilization, Participation, and Solidaridad Latino Participation in the 2006 Immigration Protest Rallies.” Urban Affairs Review 44.5 (2009): 736–764.

    DOI: 10.1177/1078087409332925Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    By examining various political participation hypotheses, the authors determine the degree of Latino support for widespread immigration protest rallies in 2006. Authors find that support was not limited to Mexican immigrants but rather was based upon broader group solidarity among Latino citizens. Important for better understanding political mobilization among Latinos.

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  • Chong, Dennis. Collective Action and the Civil Rights Movement. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1991.

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    Takes a rationalist approach to the actions and outcomes of the civil rights movement by examining the movement in the context of collective action theory. Within this framework, Chong meticulously explains the rise of the movement, when and why protest and boycotts were used, and the decline of the movement.

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  • Gillion, Daniel Q. “Protest and Congressional Behavior: Assessing Racial and Ethnic Minority Protests in the District.” Journal of Politics 74.4 (2012): 950–962.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0022381612000539Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Outlines the ways in which minority protest can lead directly to positive congressional action based on the purposes of this political action. Finds that minority protest is at times used as a proxy for constituency preferences by congressional legislators.

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  • Gillion, Daniel Q. The Political Power of Protest: Minority Activism and Shifts in Public Policy. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139381277Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Among the few empirical examinations of the influence and efficacy of minority political protest on the US political system. Demonstrates the ways in which minority political protest works to influence the three branches of government at the national level.

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  • McAdam, Doug. Political Process and the Development of Black Insurgency, 1930–1970. 2d ed. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1999.

    DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226555553.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Takes a structuralist approach. Examines the rise and decline of black insurgency and emphasizes the role of three institutions in cultivating protest politics of the civil rights movement (black churches, black colleges, and southern chapters of NAACP). Argues that increased political opportunities and heightened senses of political efficacy were crucial to the movement’s success.

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  • Morris, Aldon D. The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement?: Black Communities Organizing for Change. New York: Free Press, 1984.

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    Utilizes an indigenous, mass protest approach to provide a clear examination and explanation of how the civil rights movement developed and operated. Through qualitative examination of extensive interviews with individuals that were part of the movement, this work demonstrates the strength and importance of external political engagement in order to challenge unjust political and social institutions.

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  • Smith, Jackie, John D. McCarthy, Clark McPhail, and Boguslaw Augustyn. “From Protest to Agenda Building: Description Bias in Media Coverage of Protest Events in Washington, D.C.” Social Forces 79.4 (2001): 1397–1423.

    DOI: 10.1353/sof.2001.0053Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines effects of media coverage on political outcomes of protest politics. Finds that media framing of political demonstrations are often not in line with the purposes of the protesters, and these media portrayals can undermine the messages of social movements. These movements work to mitigate these negative effects.

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  • Wallace, Sophia J., Chris Zepeda-Millan, and Michael Jones-Correa. “Spatial and Temporal Proximity: Examining the Effects of Protests on Political Attitudes.” American Journal of Political Science 58.2 (2014): 433–448.

    DOI: 10.1111/ajps.12060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Innovative approach utilizing 2006 immigration rights marches dat, 2006 Latino National Survey, and GIS data. Authors find that the differing frames used at small versus large protests lead to greater feelings of trust in government and political efficacy versus greater feelings of political alienation, respectively.

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Representation

In the context of electoral politics, another means of minority political engagement comes in the form of running for and holding political office. This relates specifically to the concept of representation. There has been a great deal of debate regarding whether descriptive representation is necessary for minority groups to secure substantive representation. On the one hand, due to the recognition of the dearth of white crossover voting, it had been assumed that minority descriptive representation could not be secured without a significant majority of minorities within a district. Lublin 1999 demonstrates that blacks are able to obtain greater substantive representation in districts in which 40–55 percent of the population is black. Any higher proportions than this only serve to dilute the influence of this group in other districts. Swain 2006 presents an exploration of the necessity for descriptive congressional representation for African Americans and claims that black representatives provide less substantive representation than whites. This work set off a firestorm of academic research and empirical results that challenged Swain’s methodology and conclusions. Tate 2004 and Grose 2011 suggest that Swain 2006 inadequately captures the important benefits of descriptive representation that are substantive in nature (such as increasing political trust, knowledge, efficacy, outreach, and services). Bratton and Haynie 1999 demonstrates that it is preferable to examine the legislation put forward by the minority representatives rather than using roll call votes, at which point the legislative process is ending rather than beginning. They emphasize the agenda-setting process and highlight the fact that racial minorities and women are more likely than other representatives to introduce and support legislation that is geared toward group interests. Further, Mansbridge 1999 acknowledges that descriptive representation for blacks and women leads directly to important substantive and symbolic measures. Sanchez and Morin 2011 finds that the effects of descriptive representation on the political attitudes of Latinos vary based on issues relating to panethnic and national origin identities, thus providing the important reminder that theoretical models and empirical findings should not be expected to be applicable in the context of all racial and ethnic minority groups. Much of the extant literature finds that in spite of positive political engagement outcomes for minorities, descriptive representation leads to a decreased likelihood of these representatives passing legislation; however, Rocca and Sanchez 2011 presents the opposite finding. For an extensive review of the importance of racial and ethnic minority representatives, see Griffin 2014.

  • Bratton, Kathleen A., and Kerry L. Haynie. “Agenda Setting and Legislative Success in State Legislatures: The Effects of Gender and Race.” Journal of Politics 61.3 (1999): 658–679.

    DOI: 10.2307/2647822Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Demonstrates that greater descriptive representation leads to greater substantive representation for blacks and women in the arena of agenda setting. Finds that female legislators succeed at passing legislation at the same rate as men, while black legislators encounter greater hurdles to passing legislation at rates equal to those of white legislators.

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  • Griffin, John D. “When and Why Minority Legislators Matter.” Annual Review of Political Science 17 (June 2014): 327–336.

    DOI: 10.1146/annurev-polisci-033011-205028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the importance of racial and ethnic minority representatives by providing an extensive review of studies on this subject. Identifies importance of minority representatives in terms of agenda setting, mobilization, electoral outcomes, coalitions, and policy outcomes. Provides suggestions for further research.

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  • Grose, Christian R. Congress in Black and White: Race and Representation in Washington and at Home. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511976827Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds that substantive representation for blacks increases with descriptive representation in the US Congress. This substantive representation is provided by way of greater outreach to blacks, as well as service and project delivery. Finds that the best outcomes for this sort of representation are achieved in political competitive districts in which blacks are slightly less than the majority of the constituents.

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  • Lublin, David. The Paradox of Representation. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.

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    Essential reading on racial majority-minority districting and representation. Analyzes the racial composition of both US Congress and its congressional districts. Proposes dispersing African American constituents across districts to make up between 40–55 percent of a district (which is an adequate proportion to allow for increased influence over a district’s representative).

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  • Mansbridge, Jane. “Should Blacks Represent Blacks and Women Represent Women? A Contingent ‘Yes’.” Journal of Politics 61.3 (1999): 628–657.

    DOI: 10.2307/2647821Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Outlines four contexts in which selective descriptive representation benefits disadvantaged groups (namely blacks and women). These contexts are specific to substantive and symbolic issues by way of providing better deliberation of group interests and increasing the legitimacy of the system of representation in the context of a history of exclusion.

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  • Rocca, Michael S., and Gabriel R. Sanchez. “Taking Advantage of Disadvantages: The Legislative Effectiveness of Minority Members of Congress.” Conference Papers—American Political Science Association (January 2011): 1–43.

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    Rocca and Sanchez determine that, in terms of legislative effectiveness, minority representatives are as likely as nonminorities to get their sponsored bills passed. This article warns that these results should not be considered to support the idea that racial/ethnic institutional barriers have dissipated.

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  • Sanchez, Gabriel, and Jason Morin. “The Effect of Descriptive Representation on Latinos’ View of Government and of Themselves.” Social Science Quarterly 92.2 (2011): 483–508.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2011.00779.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Develops a Latino-specific theoretical model, which incorporates the role of panethnicity, for examining the effects of descriptive representation on political attitudes. Sanchez and Morin find that descriptive representation decreases perceptions of political alienation at the panethnic level and increases political efficacy at the national origin level.

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  • Swain, Carol M. Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2006.

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    Updated edition of 1993 work examining the effectiveness of black descriptive representation. Swain’s conclusions that descriptive representation does not lead to greater substantive representation for blacks and that whites are more effective at representing black interests have lead to numerous subsequent studies supporting the opposite conclusions via more stringent measures.

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  • Tate, Katherine. Black Faces in the Mirror: African Americans and Their Representatives in the U.S. Congress. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2004.

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    Examines effectiveness of black members of US Congress in representing their constituents. Broadly defines representation in terms of many facets of both substantive and symbolic representation, and demonstrates the ways in which descriptive representation leads to greater political engagement among blacks.

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African Americans

In terms of minority political engagement in the United States, African Americans constitute the group that scholars have studied for the longest period. Political exclusion throughout slavery and Jim Crow created the necessity for blacks to work in nontraditional ways to influence the political system. Historical and current struggles against marginalization and social, economic, and political oppression most directly demonstrate why traditional models of political engagement do not adequately fit examinations of blacks in the political system. Various sources provide a broad overview of how African Americans engage the US political system. Walton and Smith 2014, Dawson 1994, Tate 1998, and Mitchell and Covin 2013 take different approaches to examining black politics in a comprehensive way. Walton and Smith 2014 frames its investigation of past and present in terms of African Americans seeking far-reaching freedom within the nation. Dawson 1994 demonstrates the reasons as to why blacks find that their fate is connected to the race as a whole, thus justifying their use of the recognition of was is best for blacks as a whole in order to make political decisions. Just as Tate 1998 examines the development of “new black politics” after the civil rights movement in a way that encourages recognizing black politics as dynamic and ever changing, Mitchell and Covin 2013 encourages scholars to evaluate current political realities faced by blacks in order to develop new, rather than static, theoretical frameworks. Bobo and Gilliam 1990 and Whitby 2007 examine the effects of descriptive representation on black political empowerment and voter turnout, respectively. Further along these lines of political mobilization, Calhoun-Brown 1996 and McKenzie 2004 investigate the mobilizing effects of religious organizations on black populations. While both find increased mobilization due to contact with and involvement with these organizations, McKenzie 2004 finds that messages through informal social networks in these religious institutions have greater effects than messages from clergy, as the former are more engaging and less distant. Although many racial and ethnic politics scholars (unlike American society as a whole) do not view African Americans as a monolithic group, research on this group does not always reflect this recognition both theoretically and empirically. Smith 2014 pushes against this trend by challenging the implicit assumption that there is little to no ethnic variation among Blacks. This work examines panethnic diversity in the context of feelings of group identification, group consciousness, and political attitudes and participation.

  • Bobo, Lawrence, and Franklin D. Gilliam. “Race, Sociopolitical Participation, and Black Empowerment.” American Political Science Review 84.2 (1990): 377–393.

    DOI: 10.2307/1963525Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines black political representation and its influence on black political engagement. Authors find that when blacks live in areas with high levels of black political empowerment, they are more likely to participate in the political system and feel higher levels of political efficacy and trust in government.

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  • Calhoun-Brown, Allison. “African American Churches and Political Mobilization: The Psychological Impact of Organizational Resources.” Journal of Politics 58.4 (1996): 935–953.

    DOI: 10.2307/2960144Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the role of religious organizations in the political mobilization of African Americans. Finds that church attendance is not enough to influence black political participation; however, membership in a church that puts forth political announcements is correlated with greater African American political engagement.

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  • Dawson, Michael C. Behind the Mule?: Race and Class in African-American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994.

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    Seminal work concerning the roots of political incorporation among African Americans. Develops and strongly supports the concept of the Black Utility Heuristic, which claims that African Americans use the well-being of the group as a proxy for their own political interests, particularly given the concept of linked fate.

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  • McKenzie, Brian D. “Religious Social Networks, Indirect Mobilization, and African-American Political Participation.” Political Research Quarterly 57.4 (2004): 621–632.

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    Examines ability of political messages transferred through informal, religion-based social networks to influence black political mobilization and participation. Finds that this informal political communication is more effective than direct political messages from the church. The close connections formed in the religious social networks lead to increased African American political activism.

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  • Mitchell, Michael, and David Covin, eds. Grassroots and Coalitions: Exploring the Possibilities of Black Politics. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2013.

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    Highlights the importance of consistently evaluating the current state of black politics in order to appropriately examine the ways in which blacks engage the political system. This edited volume provides updated examinations of electoral politics, political organizations, voting behavior, political participation, and coalition possibilities.

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  • Smith, Candis Watts. Black Mosaic: The Politics of Black Pan-Ethnic Diversity. New York: New York University Press, 2014.

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    Advances understanding of black politics by shifting away from consideration of the black population as ethnically monolithic. Explores the ethnic diversity of blacks in the United States and appraises the political realities and engagement of these groups by way of examining group identification, consciousness, and participation activities.

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  • Tate, Katherine. From Protest to Politics: The New Black Voters in American Elections. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

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    Examines the emergence of “new black politics” as it developed during the decline of the civil rights movement. Works to determine the degree to which black group consciousness exists and blacks view themselves in group-based rather than individualistic ways. Examines policy views, partisanship, and electoral participation.

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  • Walton, Hanes, Jr., and Robert C. Smith. American Politics and the African American Quest for Universal Freedom. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson, 2014.

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    Extensive overview of the connections between African Americans and the US political system and the degree to which they experience political incorporation. Frames African American political engagement in the context of the pursuit of freedom and equality and examines these issues in terms of both political behavior and political institutions.

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  • Whitby, Kenny J. “The Effect of Black Descriptive Representation on Black Electoral Turnout in the 2004 Elections.” Social Science Quarterly 88.4 (2007): 1010–1023.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6237.2007.00515.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the effect of descriptive representation on African American voter turnout. Finds that the presence of African American officeholders is linked to higher voter turnout rates among blacks. This suggests that positive effects of descriptive representation extend beyond substantive and symbolic representation and into the electoral process.

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Latinos

Over a decade ago, Latinos became the largest minority group in the United States. The growth of this population over many decades has led scholars to recognize and address the considerable gap in the literature concerning Latinos and political engagement. Among minority groups, Latinos have been studied for the second longest period (as compared to the longer history of studies regarding African Americans). Where much of the early literature focused on Mexican Americans and political activism, over time scholars have expanded this focus to cover all groups categorized as “Latino” or “Hispanic” by the sociopolitical structures of the United States. Scholars have worked to determine the degree to which a panethnic Latino identity has formed among individuals with ancestral roots in many different Latin American nations, and to determine the degree to which this identity becomes politicized (see Sanchez 2006; Junn and Masuoka 2008; and Min 2014 in the section on Group Consciousness and Mobilization). Researchers examining Latinos work to determine the points at which and the reasons as to why ethnic origin identity versus “Latino” identity is most important in the context of political engagement in the United States. Barreto 2007; Barreto and Nuno 2011; and Barreto, et al. 2004 find that political mobilization is achieved by way of increased descriptive representation, coethnic contact, and political empowerment through majority-minority districting, among many other factors. Of particular importance, Pantoja and Segura 2003 and Pantoja, et al. 2001 demonstrate that, especially among Latino immigrants, perceptions of racialized sociopolitical threat can lead to increased mobilization by way of acquiring high levels of political knowledge, engaging in political activism, and seeking citizenship and voting. Additionally, the importance of engaging intersectionality frameworks, especially in the context of gender and ethnicity is explored in detail in Jaramillo 2010. For broad overviews concerning Latino politics, see Bedolla 2014 and Hero 1992, the latter of which addresses and reformulates the traditional political science theoretical framework of pluralism to more accurately reflect the political realities faced by Latinos in the mid-to-late 20th century.

  • Barreto, Matt A. “iSí Se Puede! Latino Candidates and the Mobilization of Latino Voters.” American Political Science Review 101.3 (2007): 425–441.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055407070293Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the degree to which Latino candidates can mobilize the Latino electorate. Based on evidence from various mayoral elections, Barreto finds support for Latino voter mobilization based on the presence of coethnic candidates, thus bolstering the concept of the salience of ethnicity for Latino voters.

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  • Barreto, Matt A., and Stephen A. Nuno. “The Effectiveness of Coethnic Contact on Latino Political Recruitment.” Political Research Quarterly 64.2 (2011): 448–459.

    DOI: 10.1177/1065912909352774Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines whether targeted, coethnic contact has greater mobilizing effects than generic contact for Latino voters. Authors parse out partisan effects and find coethnic contact can increase support for Republican candidates and issues, while coethnic contact compared to generic contact regarding Democratic candidates and issues does not vary in its effects.

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  • Barreto, Matt A., Gary M. Segura, and Nathan D. Woods. “The Mobilizing Effect of Majority-Minority Districts on Latino Turnout.” American Political Science Review 98.1 (2004): 65–75.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0003055404001005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues against the theory that majority-minority districts suppress voter turnout. Authors find a political empowerment effect for Latinos in majority-minority districts, and this effect increases as they reside in overlapping majority-Latino districts at various political levels. These majority-Latino districts also appear to depress non-Hispanic turnout as overlapping majority-Latino districting increases.

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  • Bedolla, Lisa Garcia. Latino Politics. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Polity, 2014.

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    Provides historical examination of the main Latino subgroups as they are connected to the US political system. Demonstrates how their various ethnic origin group experiences within US politics and society have lead to differing approaches to political engagement.

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  • Hero, Rodney. Latinos And The US Political System: Two-Tiered Pluralism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992.

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    Expands the theoretical approach to political access and engagement by developing the two-tiered pluralism framework, within which Hero demonstrates that Latinos (and racial/ethnic minorities more generally) are only marginally included in the political structure of the nation. Provides a comprehensive examination of Latinos at all levels of government and politics.

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  • Jaramillo, Patricia A. “Building a Theory, Measuring a Concept: Exploring Intersectionality and Latina Activism at the Individual Level.” Journal of Women, Politics and Policy 31.3 (2010): 193–216.

    DOI: 10.1080/15544771003697213Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the importance of intersectional approaches to understanding Latino political engagement, particularly in the context of gender and ethnicity. Finds that individualistic and collectivistic political orientations with regard to both gender and ethnicity respectively redirect or increase Latina political activism.

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  • Pantoja, Adrian D., Ricardo Ramirez, and Gary M. Segura. “Citizens by Choice, Voters by Necessity: Patterns in Political Mobilization by Naturalized Latinos.” Political Research Quarterly 54.4 (2001): 729–750.

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    Presents the important finding that newly naturalized Latinos had higher voter turnout rates than both native-born and longer-term naturalized Latinos. This suggests that Latinos naturalizing during periods of increased racialized anti-immigrant rhetoric are seeking enfranchisement as an important form of political engagement, given perceptions of sociopolitical threat.

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  • Pantoja, Adrian D., and Gary M. Segura. “Fear and Loathing in California: Contextual Threat and Political Sophistication among Latino Voters.” Political Behavior 25.3 (2003): 265–286.

    DOI: 10.1023/A:1025119724207Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Finds higher levels of political knowledge and perceptions of importance of racial issues among Latino immigrants in California compared to native-born Latinos and Latinos outside of California. Authors credit this to California ballot measures against immigrants that were racially charged, which lead to greater anxiety and political interest among Latino immigrants.

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Asian Americans

As the US racial group that is most heavily composed of immigrants and simultaneously the group that has among the lowest populations among racial and ethnic minorities, Asian Americans have often been overlooked and misunderstood within the US political context. The books and articles referenced below do an excellent job of working to combat this problematic tendency. One of the most important issues that scholarship in this area works to address is that of “Asian American” as a panethnic racial moniker. Lien, et al. 2004 and Wong 2005 are comprehensive works that specifically address the degree to which national-origin identity and panethnic identity influence political orientations and political engagement among Asian Americans. As another edited volume that is comprehensive in nature, Chang 2002 presents a variety of theoretical approaches and empirical findings from many different scholars relating to Asian Americans and their ability to engage with the US political system. As understood by way of the identity-to-politics link, group consciousness (as seen through the politicization of national-origin identity and “Asian American” identity) can lead to political mobilization. Wong 2005 finds that direct, targeted contact can mobilize Asian American voters, as evidenced by way of increased voter turnout. Jacob 2006; Lien, et al. 2001; Nguyen and Garand 2009; and Seo 2011 work to examine further the ways in which Asian Americans engage in political participation, particularly through analyses of the effects of group consciousness, the development of public opinion, the presence and/or lack of partisanship, and the influence of residential and media ethnic composition. Cho 2003 focuses on contextualizing Asian American political participation by way of examining campaign contribution networks.

  • Chang, Gordon, ed. Asian Americans and Politics: Perspectives, Experiences, Prospects. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2002.

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    Extensive theoretical and empirical examinations of how Asian Americans are connected to and isolated from the US political system. Examines how Asian Americans engage US politics, and how the sociopolitical system responds to this population’s engagement. Addresses electoral and nonelectoral politics as well as national origin differences and similarities.

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  • Cho, Wendy K. Tam. “Contagion Effects and Ethnic Contribution Networks.” American Journal of Political Science 47.2 (2003): 368–387.

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    Provides an innovative and important approach to understanding Asian American political participation by way of campaign contributions. Focuses on contribution networks, rather than individual contributions, to highlight the context in which Asian American communities support political campaigns.

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  • Jacob, Anil G. “Asian American Political Participation: Research Challenges for an Emerging Minority.” PS: Political Science and Politics 39.01 (2006): 103–106.

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    Overview of extant literature concerning Asian American political participation. Identifies areas of research concerning identity, consciousness, electoral participation, domestic and nondomestic political involvement, and partisan identification (among others). Encourages use of multiple methodologies and levels of analysis. Provides variety of suggestions concerning future directions for research on this topic.

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  • Lien, Pei-te, Christian Collet, Janelle Wong, and S. Karthick Ramakrishnan. “Asian Pacific-American Public Opinion and Political Participation.” PS: Political Science and Politics 34.03 (2001): 625–630.

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    Broadly examines literature regarding Asian American public opinion and political participation. Identifies three-step process by which electoral participation proceeds (naturalization, registration, voter turnout), and identifies barriers to these steps for Asian Americans. Examines political participation beyond electoral politics among Asian Americans to demonstrate higher levels of engagement than generally recognized.

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  • Lien, Pei-te, M. Margaret Conway, and Janelle Wong. The Politics of Asian Americans: Diversity and Community. New York: Routledge, 2004.

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    This meticulous work directly addresses and elucidates misconceptions regarding Asian Americans in the sociopolitical sphere. The authors use the 2000–2001 Pilot National Asian American Political Survey to examine the political attitudes, opinions, and behavior of this group. Examines importance of national-origin group differences and similarities in historical and sociopolitical context.

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  • Nguyen, N. Kim, and James C. Garand. “Partisan Strength and Nonpartisanship Among Asian Americans.” American Politics Research 37.3 (2009): 375–408.

    DOI: 10.1177/1532673X08324228Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Highlights the concept that Asian Americans do not attach themselves to political parties as understood under traditional political frameworks. Examines degrees of party identification and nonpartisanship among Asian Americans. Income and ethnic origin, among other variables, can influence likelihood of reporting partisan attachment.

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  • Seo, Mihye. “Beyond Coethnic Boundaries: Coethnic Residential Context, Communication, and Asian Americans’ Political Participation.” International Journal of Public Opinion Research 23.3 (2011): 338–360.

    DOI: 10.1093/ijpor/edr019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the influence of residential contexts for Asian Americans in terms of political engagement. Finds that residential ethnic heterogeneity does not lead to increased political participation, while ethnic residential homogeneity and ethnic media lead to increased political awareness and engagement.

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  • Wong, Janelle S. “Mobilizing Asian American Voters: A Field Experiment.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 601 (2005): 102–114.

    DOI: 10.1177/0002716205278450Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines issues of political mobilization and participation among Asian Americans from five subgroups. Based on field experiment in 2002 elections, this study determines that targeted telephone calls and mailings can mobilize Asian Americans by way of increasing voter turnout.

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  • Wong, Janelle, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, Taeku Lee, and Jane Junn. Asian American Political Participation: Emerging Constituents and Their Political Identities. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2011.

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    Provides a significant and comprehensive examination of all forms of political engagement among Asian Americans (including donations, community organizing, and electoral politics, among others), taking care to recognize the importance and influence of subgroup experiences and history of immigration. Utilizes data from the 2008 National Asian American Survey.

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American Indians

As the racial/ethnic group that was present in North America prior to European colonization, it would seem somewhat paradoxical that racial and ethnic politics scholars have devoted the least amount of theoretical and empirical examination to American Indians. A variety of factors help to explain this phenomenon, including the many hundreds of separate tribes that exist within the United States, the relative small size of this group’s population, and the status of tribes as sovereign nations, which creates a distinct relationship between American Indians and the US political system that is not experienced by any other minority group in precisely the same way. Another major factor, which has overshadowed and specifically created the circumstances under which the aforementioned factors have formed, is the varying and generally negative structures of US government policies toward American Indians, including assimilation, Indian re-organization, tribal termination, and self-determination. Broad overviews and examinations of these topics (as well as traditional topics in US politics) and their influence on American Indian political engagement can be found in Wilkins and Stark 2010 and Stubben 2006. As with other racial and ethnic minority groups, in order to understand political engagement, it is necessary to examine the identity-to-politics link (see Group Consciousness and Mobilization). Without group identification and group consciousness, there is no group mobilization and participation. Bonney 1977 examines nationalism among American Indians and the degree to which they choose to form an identity around a “brotherhood of tribes” or develop a closer sense of sameness and togetherness as recognized through a national “Indian” identity. Much of the work concerning American Indians and political engagement hinges on the concept of political activism, as compared to electoral politics and the like. Deloria 1988, when originally published in 1969, served as a timely resource for the encouragement and development of activism by shining a focused light on various issues of importance to all American Indians in the context of US government and society. Cobb and Fowler 2007 redirects much of the public perception of American Indians as monolithic by examining political activism at the tribal level. Smith and Warrior 1997 investigates political activism by way of an historical examination of events experienced by and orchestrated through the American Indian Movement (AIM). Prindeville 2002 utilizes and advocates for the use of an intersectional approach to examining political activism and leadership.

  • Bonney, Rachel A. “The Role of AIM Leaders in Indian Nationalism.” American Indian Quarterly 3.3 (1977): 209–224.

    DOI: 10.2307/1184538Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines the degree to which nationalism among American Indians should be understood as a “brotherhood of tribes” as compared to a new, broader national American Indian identity. The article identifies the ways in which the American Indian Movement operated as a mechanism that built and strengthened the latter.

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  • Cobb, Daniel M., and Loretta Fowler. Beyond Red Power: American Indian Politics and Activism Since 1900. Santa Fe, NM: School for Advanced Research Press, 2007.

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    Moves away from focusing on the Red Power movement and its emphasis on one American Indian identity. Provides in-depth analyses of the activist efforts of specific tribes since 1900. Demonstrates resistance to and activism against detrimental US government policies at the tribal level.

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  • Deloria, Vine, Jr. Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988.

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    Originally published 1969. Relevant to the development of American Indian activism in the 1970s. Features major critiques of US government and various organizations concerning their actions and intentions concerning American Indians. Examines similarities and differences between American Indians and African Americans in the context of sociopolitical oppression.

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  • Prindeville, Diane-Michele. “A Comparative Study of Native American and Hispanic Women in Grassroots and Electoral Politics.” Frontiers 23.1 (2002): 67–89.

    DOI: 10.1353/fro.2002.0011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines characteristics of female political actors and leaders, as well as the nature of impediments to their efforts. Takes into account the role of political organization, motivation, and early civic involvement with regard to the likelihood of American Indian female political engagement at the grassroots and electoral levels.

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  • Smith, Paul Chaat, and Robert Allen Warrior. Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. New York: New Press, 1997.

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    An examination of the American Indian Movement (AIM) through a focused look at the events at Alcatraz, Washington, and Wounded Knee. The book works to provide an accurate account of some of the major activities of AIM. Provides an in-depth look at external political engagement among American Indians.

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  • Stubben, Jerry D. Native Americans and Political Participation: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

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    Provides a broad overview of the ways in which American Indians have engaged in electoral and nonelectoral political participation. Notes the importance and structure of political organizations, interest groups, activism, social movements, and office holding. Includes contents of principal, relevant original documents.

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  • Wilkins, David E., and Heidi Kiiwetinepinesiik Stark. American Indian Politics and the American Political System. 3d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2010.

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    The most comprehensive examination of American Indians and the US political system. Recognizes the unique and sovereign nature of each tribe, yet simultaneously demonstrates the means by which pan-national theoretical frameworks can be built, given the historical relationship with US government. Includes examination of political ideologies, orientations, and engagement.

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Immigrants

Although the United States is often referred to as a “nation of immigrants” and over time has allowed for the political incorporation of new populations, there is currently a great deal of apprehension concerning immigration, which is partially influenced by the racialization of the nonwhite groups that are arriving in larger proportions than at other points in history. Prior to the mid-20th century, the US government placed heavy restrictions on non-European and non-white immigration. Additionally, the first US Congress tied naturalization to whiteness in 1790. Given the structures of the historical variation in composition of immigrants, little of the earlier literature on political engagement among immigrants is relevant to the political realities faced by immigrants that are classified as racial and/or ethnic minorities once they reach the United States. Particularly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, scholars have worked toward filling this considerable gap in the literature. Lee, et al. 2007; Ramakrishnan 2006; and Ramakrishnan and Bloemraad 2011 provide broad overviews concerning racial/ethnic minority immigrants and the US political system by way of presenting historical, theoretical, and empirical findings. Ramakrishnan and Espenshade 2001, Wong 2007, Jones-Correa 1998, and Rogers 2006 examine the ways in which political mobilization occurs within minority immigrant groups by developing theoretical frameworks specific to assimilation, community organization involvement, resources, and institutional barriers. In terms of political participation, much of the literature focuses on nonelectoral forms of participation, partially due to the fact that immigrants that have not been in the United States for an extended period generally have not completed the naturalization process. Nevertheless, Barreto and Muñoz 2003 and Junn and Haynie 2008 highlight the importance of examining all facets of political engagement with regard to elucidating the distinct experiences and political approaches of these groups.

  • Barreto, Matt A., and José A. Muñoz. “Reexamining the ‘Politics of In-Between’: Political Participation among Mexican Immigrants in the United States.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 25.4 (2003): 427–447.

    DOI: 10.1177/0739986303258599Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines nonelectoral participation among Mexican American immigrants. Provides explanation as to why traditional understandings of political participation do not adequately represent levels of political engagement among immigrants, given lack of access to traditional forms of participation. Finds that socioeconomic status, language fluency, political attitudes, among others can predict immigrant participation.

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  • Jones-Correa, Michael. Between Two Nations?: The Political Predicament of Latinos in New York City. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

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    Focuses on the determinants of relatively low levels of political incorporation among Latino immigrants in New York City. Provides an extensive examination of the ways in which considerations concerning citizenship can hinder direct political participation, thus creating an inaccurate narrative of political involvement among Latino immigrants. Also examines the factors of gender and informal political participation.

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  • Junn, Jane, and Kerry L. Haynie, eds. New Race Politics in America: Understanding Minority and Immigrant Politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511790577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Edited volume that advances the examination of immigrant politics into 21st-century realities. Examines evolution and development of identity politics, immigrant political participation, and mobilization. Also examines group activism, intergroup relations, campaign strategies, and political incorporation.

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  • Lee, Taeku, S. Karthick Ramakrishnan, and Ricardo Ramírez, eds. Transforming Politics, Transforming America: The Political and Civic Incorporation of Immigrants in the United States. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007.

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    Extensive edited volume that contextualizes the racialized issue of immigration in the United States. In the context of important theoretical frameworks, chapters are dedicated to ethnoracial classifications, immigration, assimilation, partisanship, and various forms of political engagement, particularly among Latinos, and Asian Americans, as well as Caribbean immigrants and others.

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  • Ramakrishnan, S. Karthick. Democracy in Immigrant America: Changing Demographics and Political Participation. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2006.

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    Examines the degree to which traditional frameworks of political participation can be applied to first- and second-generation racial and ethnic minority immigrant populations with any expectation of accuracy. Presents suggestions for reevaluating theoretical frameworks for the evolving US population in terms of both electoral and nonelectoral political engagement.

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  • Ramakrishnan, S. Karthick, and Irene Bloemraad, eds. Civic Hopes and Political Realities: Immigrants, Community Organizations, and Political Engagement. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2011.

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    Challenges literature suggesting declining civic participation is caused by increased immigration. Examines civic participation among immigrants both in the United States and internationally. Finds that the power of community organizations in the context of gaining political influence is mitigated for immigrants by the political marginalization that comes with this sociopolitical status.

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  • Ramakrishnan, S. Karthick, and Thomas J. Espenshade. “Immigrant Incorporation and Political Participation in the United States.” International Migration Review 35.3 (2001): 870–909.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-7379.2001.tb00044.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Demonstrates the necessity of taking an immigrant-centered theoretical approach for engaging in scholarship regarding immigrant political participation. Largely refutes assimilationist theories concerning participation, and provides evidence that it is important to control for resources, institutional barriers, and social incorporation. Anti-immigrant political measures are shown to mobilize participation among immigrants.

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  • Rogers, Reuel R. Afro-Caribbean Immigrants and the Politics of Incorporation?: Ethnicity, Exception, or Exit. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511606694Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Groundbreaking work examining the sociopolitical realities faced by Afro-Caribbean immigrants in the United States. Provides examination of race and ethnicity as concepts that both connect and differentiate this group from African Americans. Focuses on group identity and political incorporation.

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  • Wong, Janelle. “Two Steps Forward: The Slow and Steady March toward Immigrant Political Mobilization.” Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race 4.2 (2007): 457–467.

    DOI: 10.1017/S1742058X07070257Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Emphasizes the long-term role of political parties and community organizations to the degree in which immigrants are politically mobilized and engaged. Given the general lack of current political party outreach to racial/ethnic minority immigrants, community-based organizations serve as the main force behind immigrant political mobilization, and consequently, participation.

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