The Ties That Do Not Bind: Social Capital, Minority Female Representation, and Social Inequality in the United States



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This dissertation is comprised of three studies on how social capital and the representation of members of traditionally under-represented groups affect health inequality in the US. A consequence of racial and ethnic diversity in America has been increased social inequality. Social inequality in health exists along gender, race/ethnicity, and the intersection of the two. The goal of this dissertation is to offer insight on the factors that improve health outcomes and reduce health inequality. Motivated by the theory of representative bureaucracy, theories on legislative behavior, and public health research, I argue that (minority) female representation is critical to reducing health disparity.

In the first essay, "All Women Not Affected Equally: Social Capital and Minority Female Representation in American States", I study how various measures of social capital effect the emergence and political representation of women who belong to different racial/ethnic groups in 2012. The findings suggest that social capital is a form of "political" capital for women with differential effects on white women, black women, and Latinas. Sub-group social capital indexes reveal that social capital is a private good that unique effects in-group members. Aware of research that highlights additional "limits" to expected benefits of social capital and the importance of other representatives that can affect health, I examine how social capital shapes female representation more broadly. In the second chapter, "Occupational Hierarchy vs. Employment Sector: A Comparison of Social Capital Effects on Female Employment". By focusing on female employment in government and in health, my findings suggest social capital affects the sector women pursue careers in and promotes the representation of women in health. The third chapter, "What about Substantive Representation? The Effects of Female Bureaucratic Representation and Social Capital on US Inequality", ties the studies together. While all women benefit from high stocks of female social capital, only white women accrue the benefits associated with increased female bureaucratic representation. High stocks of social capital and female bureaucratic representation reduce disparity in infant mortality rates.



Social inequality, Representation