Noam is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University and Associate Director of the Latin American Public Opinion Project. His research interests include comparative political behavior, representation, Latin American politics, political parties and partisanship, and class and inequality.
Affluence and Congruence: Unequal Representation Around the World
Do elected representatives reflect the preferences of the citizens they represent? Recent studies from the U.S. have found that elected representatives tend to be more responsive to the preferences of affluent citizens. But we still know little about why this bias exists. We examine whether a similar affluence bias exists outside the U.S. and why. We gathered every available survey of national legislators in the world and matched it with mass survey data. Using a variety of methods, we identify how closely the distribution of legislators matches that of citizens. Around the world, legislators' preferences are consistently more congruent with those of affluent citizens. But we find no comparative evidence for any of the mechanisms proposed by studies in the U.S. There seems to be something general about modern electoral democracies that makes representatives disproportionately more congruent with the rich – but we still do not know what that something is.