Descriptive Representation and Deliberation: How Do Minority and Female Legislators Affect Debate?

Extant research focuses on whether officeholders from marginalized groups tend to implement substantively representative policies for shared-identity constituents. However, studies examining the roll call voting behavior of African-American, Hispanic and female legislators implicitly assume that, once elected, these officeholders are equal to their white, male counterparts within the deliberative process. Research shows that proportional and institutional characteristics of the deliberation environment affect women’s participation in experimentally controlled settings, which begs the question: how do such factors affect legislative debate? I examine institutional factors explaining the deliberative behavior of minority and female legislators in the U.S. Congress; particularly, whether the proportion of such legislators affects the number of times they are interrupted during deliberation, as measured by a simple count of the number of times a female or minority legislators’ sentence is ended with a “–” in the Congressional Record. I also use text-analysis to explore which topics these members of Congress are most likely to discuss, as well as how such trends evolve over time.