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The Backbone of Democracy: A Study Examining the Impact of Black Women in Politics




Williams, Shaniqua

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Political Science

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



This dissertation investigates how the inclusion of Black women in politics impacts democratic norms in three unique ways: voter turnout, evaluations of government, and legislative policy priorities. I hypothesize that an increase in the descriptive representation of Black women results in increased voter turnout, more positive evaluations of government, and state’s prioritizing policies in favor of Black women's interests. I find that the impact of Black women varied across each study. I found null results when considering how Black women legislators influence voter turnout. Next, I found some support that an increase in Black women’s descriptive representation results in an increase in positive evaluations of government. Lastly, descriptive representation of Black women can translate into substantive representation, but this link is conditional on other institutional factors, and the relationship is not always positive. Generally, this dissertation shows that the impact of Black women in politics is complex and should be further studied.