Representative Bureaucracy and Social Equity: Bias, Perceived Fairness and Efficacy

  • Kenneth J. Meier American University
Keywords: representative bureaucracy, social equity, bias in bureaucracy, active representation, symbolic representation


This article on representative bureaucracy and social equity addresses three normative questions in the literature. First, concerns that active representation creates biases in what are normally unbiased, rational bureaucratic processes both fail to understand the process of bureaucratic representation and have little empirical support. Representative bureaucracy is unlikely to be a threat to orderly democratic government. Second, that what appears to be active representation rarely has negative consequences for others and is difficult to frame as unfair. Third, while the literature on representative bureaucracy may be overly optimistic about its efficacy given the various constraints and limits, it frequently produces results that increase social equity and is a valuable strategy toward that end.

Author Biography

Kenneth J. Meier , American University

Kenneth J. Meier ( is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the School of Public Affairs, American University, Professor of Bureaucracy and Democracy at Leiden University (the Netherlands), and a Professor of Public Management at the Cardiff School of Business, Cardiff University (Wales). His research interests in social equity include those related to public management, the role of bureaucracy in democratic systems, comparative public administration, and behavioral approaches to public administration.


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Received 2022-04-20
Accepted 2022-05-04
Published 2023-01-03
How to Cite
Meier, K. (2023). Representative Bureaucracy and Social Equity: Bias, Perceived Fairness and Efficacy. Journal of Social Equity and Public Administration, 1(1), 23–38.