Political Science, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 6-24-2014


Neiman, J.L. 2014. "Disproportional Representation: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Educational Attainment Representation in State Government". Unpublished Dissertation. University of Nebraska.


A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College of the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Political Science, Under the Supervision of Professor Kevin B. Smith. Lincoln, Nebraska: June, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Jayme Neiman


The present dissertation examines unequal political representation in the United States. More specifically, I ask whether American citizens with low relative levels of education are under-represented by their state governments compared to their well-educated counterparts. I posit that this question is vital to our understanding of the quality of democracy in America.
In order to answer the primary question, I take a mixed-methods approach, using a combination of quantitative and qualitative data to obtain a clearer picture of the representation scene. In the quantitative chapters, I demonstrate that in terms of both service responsiveness and policy responsiveness, those individuals with less education are not being appropriately represented. Additionally, I interviewed legislators from around the country to gain insight into how they perceive their representativeness. This adds depth and a more personal angle to the quantitative studies.
I take additional steps to examine wither the education levels of the legislators themselves affects their representation of less-educated constituents. Not only is legislator education an area that has not been often studied, I use an original data set of state legislator educational attainment that provides the most extensive look at this topic that, to my knowledge, has ever been conducted.
Finally, I conclude by relating this work back to that on state politics and inequality and by highlighting a series of policy recommendations addressing issues in civic education and participation, and the weighting of citizen political interests in the policymaking process.

Advisor: Kevin B. Smith