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Opportunities for Inequality: Context and Disparities in Political Participation
Unformatted Document Text:  of these disparities. Future research should employ a wider array of opportunity measures, and classify individuals according to clear policy motivations in a manner similar to Verba, Schlozman and Brady (1995). This would provide the strongest test of how opportunities interact with policy concerns to determine how and when individuals participate. Aside from these benefits as a launching pad for future work, this study of participation gaps also makes some contributions in its own right. I show that white Americans have participated at higher rates than their black counterparts – even after controlling for SES. Status differences within the black community are also crucial for the manner in which opportunities are recognized and translated into political activity. Studying participation gaps has allowed us to paint a picture of political activity as dynamic and heterogenous in terms of the forms of activity and individuals who participate. For example, higher education does not simply boost participation through the increase in resources, it also tends towards a heightened racial awareness to recognize threat opportunities. I began this paper by trying to build upon participation research that is focused on individual characteristics. The opportunity model of participation shows that participation gaps must be understood through the integration of both individual level attributes and macro-context. It will take a similar combination to achieve our ultimate goal, a theory of policy-relevant participation. The opportunity model of participation is a step in that direction. 33

Authors: Platt, Matthew.
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of these disparities. Future research should employ a wider array of opportunity measures, and
classify individuals according to clear policy motivations in a manner similar to Verba, Schlozman
and Brady (1995). This would provide the strongest test of how opportunities interact with policy
concerns to determine how and when individuals participate.
Aside from these benefits as a launching pad for future work, this study of participation gaps
also makes some contributions in its own right. I show that white Americans have participated
at higher rates than their black counterparts – even after controlling for SES. Status differences
within the black community are also crucial for the manner in which opportunities are recognized
and translated into political activity. Studying participation gaps has allowed us to paint a picture of
political activity as dynamic and heterogenous in terms of the forms of activity and individuals who
participate. For example, higher education does not simply boost participation through the increase
in resources, it also tends towards a heightened racial awareness to recognize threat opportunities.
I began this paper by trying to build upon participation research that is focused on individual
characteristics. The opportunity model of participation shows that participation gaps must be
understood through the integration of both individual level attributes and macro-context. It will
take a similar combination to achieve our ultimate goal, a theory of policy-relevant participation.
The opportunity model of participation is a step in that direction.
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