Immigrants and Passive Representation in the U.S. Public Service: 2000-2018

AuthorChristopher A. Simon,Michael C. Moltz
Published date01 March 2023
Date01 March 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Administration & Society
2023, Vol. 55(3) 405 –427
© The Author(s) 2023
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/00953997221147239
Immigrants and Passive
Representation in the
U.S. Public Service:
Christopher A. Simon1
and Michael C. Moltz2
Representative bureaucracy has been a prominent construct in U.S.
governance literature for more than three quarters of a century. Passive
representation is an important first step toward active representation.
Using a repeated cross-sectional design, we find that immigrant status and
accompanying multigenerational effects impact the likelihood of employment
in the public sector. The barrier of immigrant status and multigenerational
effects are likely compounded by the educational achievement barrier
associated with growing professionalism in the public sector.
representative bureaucracy, immigrant citizens, public administration
Representative bureaucracy research is of critical concern to many scholars
in Western democracies (Hambleton, 2015, p. 140; Meier & Morton, 2015)
as an era of mass migration impacts governance (see Methmann & Oels,
1University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
2Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg, PA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Christopher A. Simon, University of Utah, 260 S Central Campus Drive, Salt Lake City,
UT 84112, USA.
1147239AAS0010.1177/00953997221147239Administration & SocietySimon and Moltz
406 Administration & Society 55(3)
2015; Panizzon & van Riemsdijk, 2019). The effects of rising populist ten-
dencies have run counter to the need for adaptive and inclusive democratic
institutions (see Mudde & Kaltwasser, 2012; Norris & Inglehart, 2019). The
Trump era revealed deep-seated anti-bureaucratic (Simon & Moltz, 2022)
and anti-immigrant attitudes (Lovrich et al., 2021), the combined effect pos-
sibly serving as barriers to immigrant entry into career civil service positions
(see also Wadhia, 2019).
The United States is a nation of immigrants (see Dunbar-Ortiz, 2021; see
8 U.S.C. §1101), a claim made with greater confidence today than at any time
in the last century (Congressional Research Service, 2021). Between 14%
and 16% of native-born individuals in the U.S. worked for government dur-
ing the nearly 20-year period under study; yet, between 7% and 10% of for-
eign-born individuals were similarly employed (U.S. Census, 2000, seriatim
through 2019).1 Merit-based public service employment has not kept pace
with changes in national demographics, countering claims that public service
could be a major first step to greater immigrant representation in U.S. democ-
racy (see Hawes, 2021). The situation might be explained in part by the
“graying” of the public service, particularly at the Federal level (Vinik, 2017);
hiring preferences for native-born individuals in public service; work prefer-
ences (Marchiori et al., 2018); and, the professionalization of the public sec-
tor with accompanying higher educational achievement requirements for
many positions (Pynes, 2013, pp. 6–7).
Perceptions of government might shape an individual’s work preferences.
Gravier and Roth (2020, p. 5) identify the “possibility that an offer of repre-
sentation might be rejected,” possibly reflecting skepticism or distrust of
government enterprise. That is to say, the perceived legitimacy and fairness
of governing institutions shape the pursuit of public sector employment
(Gravier & Roth, 2020, p. 18; Headley et al., 2021). Historically, immigrants
in Western democracies have often been greeted by discrimination and dis-
trust by native-born and frequently White individuals. The latter often main-
tained higher social and economic standing in communities and, in some
cases, wielded positions of power within democratic institutions (see McLaren
et al., 2021). Anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy directions have a demon-
strable impact on an immigrant’s sense of exclusion from politics and society,
contributing to feelings of not belonging—feelings that may extend beyond
immigrants to first- and second-generation descendants (Simonsen, 2021);
hence, multigenerational effects.
Building on the above-referenced findings, our research question is: Do
immigrant status and accompanying multigenerational effects impact the
likelihood of employment in the public sector? While studies have explored
issues related to representation along the lines of gender, race, and ethnicity,

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT