Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


John Mollenkopf

Committee Members

John Krinsky

Michael Fortner

Subject Categories

American Politics | Political Science


Ethnic politics, transnational politics, immigrant political incorporation, Dominicans in New York City, Inter Ethnic political competition, Identity Politics


This research project analyzes the factors that influenced the pace of political progress and incorporation of Dominican ancestry candidates in New York City from 1991 to the present. Despite this immigrant group’s relatively recent arrival, as of August 2022, thirteen Dominican-American New York City residents currently hold seats in the city council, state legislature, and the U.S. Congress.

This achievement is remarkable in comparison to the much slower historical political progress for Puerto Ricans and other Latino/a communities in New York City. This dissertation uses the variation in the composition, relative position, and political contexts facing Dominican communities across four boroughs of New York City to identify the conditions that have sped or slowed Dominican political incorporation, which, taken together, have quickly increased representation across the city.

Central to this investigation is the intertwined impact of demographic growth, political transnationalism, individual leadership development, and support or rejection from community organizations and the Democratic county party organizations. Their interaction reveals both the obstacles to and support for Dominican access to elected office in New York City. Notwithstanding the long list of disadvantages, including recent arrival, initial lack of citizenship, low percentage of the electorate, low wages, low levels of education, and attachments to the sending country, Dominican ancestry candidates have found and exploited political opportunities as well. They built political bases in neighborhoods where Dominicans are concentrated, generated political resources through local and transnational political activism, and built networks of nonprofit and business organizations.

Through strategic deployment of different approaches to ethnic identity politics across the city, Dominican political candidates have overcome the institutional and political obstacles put in place by incumbent political forces by negotiating patterns of resistance and solidarity from and with other Latino and minority groups sharing the same geographic spaces. The borough-to-borough variation in total population and citizen voting age population is an important basis for ethnic electability, but is only the starting point. This dissertation examines how a variety of “compounding” factors shaped the ways in which Dominican candidates sought to take advantage of their growing constituencies.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Monday, September 30, 2024

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