Donor Preferences for Coethnic Representation, breaking the mold or more the same?

Abstract

Do ethnic and racial minorities prefer coethnic candidates? Theories of representation posit that citizens prefer representatives who are of the same racial or ethnic background as themselves. The notion that coethnic representatives are preferable for minority populations has been used as justification for measures that are designed to increase the amount of minority legislators elected to office, empirical evidence for these claims however, are mixed. I contribute to this debate by offering a novel way to measure support for coethnic representation by estimating rates of coethnic giving among campaign donors from a dataset of over 8 million contribution records from 1980. This measure improves upon previous work which rely on self-reported survey data, and other studies that are limited by the number of elections featuring co-ethnic candidates and the availability of voter data. I find that while White donors donors give the largest share of their contributions to coethnic candidates, this is primarily due to the large amount of White candidates running for office. Controlling for the number of White candidates, this relationship disappears. However, I find that Hispanic and especially Asian donors give significant amounts of money to coethnic candidates even though these candidates represent very small portions of the candidates running for office. This relationship remains after controlling for factors that are traditionally thought to influence contribution behavior. These findings contribute to the ongoing debate of whether racial and ethnic minorities prefer coethnic representatives and challenges extent to which conventional expectations of donor behavior may should apply to minority donors.

Publication
In preparation for submission