Representative Bureaucracy: A Lever to Enhance Social Equity, Coproduction, and Democracy

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79 Scopus citations


Scholars and practitioners have long questioned whether the race, ethnicity, and gender of public bureaucrats matter to the efficacy and legitimacy of public services. Representative bureaucracy theory and research provide a growing body of empirical evidence that it does. This article examines some of the rich scholarly work that has been generated on representative bureaucracy and its implications for practice. A significant aspect of recent research focuses on the notion of symbolic representation, whereby the mere existence of a passively represented bureaucracy can itself improve outcomes by influencing the attitudes and behaviors of clients, regardless of bureaucratic actions or results. This article is intended to help both students and public managers understand the importance of representativeness in public organizations for a broad spectrum of practices and goals, from the coproduction of services to democratic rule.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-30
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Administration Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Marketing


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