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Strategic Intersectionality: Gender, Ethnicity, and Political Incorporation

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Abstract

We examine whether Latina elected officials, relative to their co-ethnic male counterparts, are more effective advocates for working class communities of color. Building upon the literature on political incorporation, gender politics, and ethnic politics, we hypothesize that Latina legislators are better positioned to be such advocates due to their unique capacity to leverage three primary resources: substantive policy focus, a multiple identity advantage, and a gender inclusive advantage. We refer to the combination of these three factors as strategic intersectionality. We test our model of strategic intersectionality using the National Latina/o State Legislator Survey (NLSLS), an original data set of thirty-minute telephone interviews with over half of all Latinos and Latinas who served in state legislatures during 2004. We find evidence for the presence of strategic intersectionality. However, its presence is not the same in all policy contexts. We conclude that strategic intersectionality is comprised of complex, multi-layered patterns of advocacy, representation, and policy influence. This research would not have been possible without a magnificent team of undergraduate research assistants at Stanford University including Maria Lizet Ocampo, Teresa Mosqueda, Evan Otero, Kiyomi Burchill, Darya Landa, and Jessica Flores. We also thank the Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (VPUE) and the Political Science Program for Undergraduate Research at Stanford. Luis R. Fraga would also like to thank the Immigrant Incorporation Cluster at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University, for providing a wonderful environment in which to work during the 2003-04 academic year. Prepared for delivery at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, August 31-September 4, 2005.

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