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Race, Resources, and Representation: Evidence from Brazilian Politicians

  • Natália S. Bueno and Thad Dunning

What explains the persistence of racial or ethnic inequalities in descriptive representation in the absence of strongly politicized racial or ethnic cleavages? This article uses new data to demonstrate a substantial racial gap between voters and politicians in Brazil. The authors show that this disparity is not plausibly due to racial preferences in the electorate as a whole, for instance, deference toward white candidates or discrimination against nonwhites, and that barriers to candidate entry or discrimination by party leaders do not likely explain the gap. Instead, they document persistent resource disparities between white and nonwhite candidates, including large differences in personal assets and campaign contributions. The findings suggest that elite closure—investments by racial and economic elites on behalf of elite candidates—help perpetuate a white political class, even in the absence of racialized politics. By underscoring this avenue through which representational disparities persist, the article contributes to research on elite power in democratic settings.

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* For excellent comments, we thank the editors, four anonymous reviewers, and seminar participants at the University of California, Berkeley; Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE, Mexico City); Fundação Getúlio Vargas (FGV-São Paulo); Harvard University; Princeton University; Stanford University; Universidade de São Paulo; Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais; the University of California, Irvine; the University of Southern California; Yale University, and the 2013 Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting. We are also grateful to the survey firms Instituto Brasileiro de Opinião Pública e Estatística (IBOPE) and Destaque for help with data collection, to Vinicius Lindoso and Brian Salant for excellent research assistance, and to Rogério Barbosa, Hellen Guicheney, Jeronimo Muniz, and Mario Fuks for their help with our pilot survey. The authors gratefully acknowledge support from the MacMillan Center and the Institute for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University, and from the United Nations University World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) under the research initiative on “The Political Implications of Group-based Inequalities.” This study qualified for IRB review exemption (Yale Human Subjects Committee protocols, #0907005444 and #1212011183).

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World Politics
  • ISSN: 0043-8871
  • EISSN: 1086-3338
  • URL: /core/journals/world-politics
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Bueno and Dunning supplementary material
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