Comparative Politics

Curing Prejudice through Representative Bureaucracies: Evidence From A Natural Experiment in Israeli Medical Clinics

Chagai M. Weiss University of Wisconsin - Madison
Representative bureaucracies are associated with economic development, improved organizational performance, and increased institutional trust and cooperation, amongst minorities. Nonetheless, the extent to which such representation shapes majority attitudes towards minorities is unclear. Building on the representative bureaucracy and intergroup contact literatures, I develop a theory of prejudice reduction through bureaucratic representation, which I test with a natural experiment leveraging the random assignment of patients to doctors across 21 medical clinics in Israel. Doing so, I demonstrate that representative bureaucracies which facilitate brief intergroup contact between Arab doctors and Jewish patients can improve majority-group perceptions of minorities. Contact with an Arab doctor reduces Jewish patients’ social distance by approximately a fifth of a standard deviation, and increases Jewish patients’ perceptions about the feasibility of peace by approximately a tenth of a standard deviation. My theory and evidence demonstrate how representative bureaucracies improve intergroup relations through a mechanism of positive intergroup contact.