Journal Article

Conventional Politics Takes Center Stage: The Latino Struggle against English-Only Laws*

Wayne A. Santoro

in Social Forces

Published on behalf of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Department of Sociology

Volume 77, issue 3, pages 887-909
Published in print March 1999 | ISSN: 0037-7732
Published online March 1999 | e-ISSN: 1534-7605 | DOI:
Conventional Politics Takes Center Stage: The Latino Struggle against English-Only Laws*

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While policies usually mirror public preferences, policies that establish English as a state's official language—English-only laws—are an exception. Despite overwhelming Anglo support, only 15 state legislatures have enacted an English-only statute in the last 70 years. To understand the relative infrequency with which this policy is adopted, I examine the impact that the main challenging group, Latinos, had on limiting adoption of the policy across U.S. states. Results indicate that net of political opportunities and extrainstitutional Latino resources, institutional Latino resources (voting blocs and state legislators) helped prevent the enactment of English-only statutes by state legislatures. Such political influence, however, disappeared when I examined English-only laws adopted by voters through citizen-initiated referenda. Thus Latino influence occurred only where advocates of the policy operated in a constrained political environment in which they could not circumvent legislative channels. I conclude with a discussion of the conditions that made Latino institutional leverage important in these policy struggles and the implications this study holds for approaches to social movements and their policy outcomes.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Sciences

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