Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

An Unconventional Application of the Glass Ceiling Concept: African American and Latino Administrators in Municipal Government Bureaucracies, 1987-1997

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

An Unconventional Application of the Glass Ceiling Concept: African American and Latino Administrators in Municipal Government Bureaucracies, 1987-1997

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Several empirical studies examine impediments to women's advancement to the highest decision/policy making levels (or sex-based glass ceilings) in public sector

agencies (Bullard and Wright 1993; Daley 1994; Naff

1994; Mani 1997; Dolan 2000; Reid, Kerr, and Miller 2000). Surprisingly, however, the glass ceiling concept is rarely employed by analysts to assist in the examination of the integration of ethnic minorities into the highest administrative salary and decision making ranks in public-sector bureaucracies (U. S. Department of Labor 1991). In this paper we propose to apply the glass ceiling concept in an unconventional way--to examine the presence of ethnic minorities at the very top levels in the administration of municipal government agencies.

It can be argued that many affirmative action and equal employment opportunity policies were designed to encourage the hiring of traditionally disadvantaged ethnic minorities, but these policies may do very little, if anything, to address complex personnel practices which affect compensation and promotion, including the advancement of ethnic minorities into the highest level policy making positions in public sector agencies. These more complex manifestations of discrimination are sometimes referred to as "second generation discrimination" (Sturm 2001). To be sure, some studies report empirical findings on the relative shares of administrative and/or managerial public sector positions held by different racial/ethnic groups (Welch, Karnig, and Eribes 1983; Dometrius and Sigelman 1984; Kerr, Miller, and Reid 2000), but still remarkably little is known about the presence of ethnic minorities in the highest-level salary and policy making administrative posts in U. S. municipal government bureaucracies. The highest administrative levels are the appropriate locus of analysis for the study of glass ceilings. Maume (2004) maintains that granting control over the firm's human and fiscal resources is an important symbolic display of trust in the worker. If firms promote white men to high-level administrative positions rather than women and ethnic minorities, then a significant mechanism by which inequality is created and sustained has been identified (Maume 2004, 255).

It should be obvious to urban, race/ethnicity, public policy, and public administration scholars that the paucity of scholarly work on this subject is not a reflection of the topic's importance. Rather, the absence of studies on this topic is due primarily to the lack of available data that allow for a systematic analysis of municipal administration across the United States.

We employ an extensive U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) data set to examine the extent of ethnic-based glass ceilings in municipal government bureaucracies in U. S. multiethnic cities over a period of 10 years. We examine two primary research questions. To what extent are African Americans and Latinos represented in top-level administrative positions in municipal governments in multiethnic cities? And are the impediments to the representation of ethnic minorities at the highest administrative levels related to the policy missions of these agencies?

These questions are important for practical and theoretical reasons. If the advancement of ethnic minorities to the highest level administrative/decision making positions in municipal government bureaucracies is to be more equitable, we need a more complete understanding of the impediments to such progress, especially how organizational missions may be a contributing factor to maintaining and/or dismantling such barriers. Missions typically are defined by the most powerful members in the organization; these members also control the interpretation and implementation of organizational missions.

Occupying administrative positions in municipal government bureaucracies can represent substantial political, symbolic, and economic progress (e. …

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