Rethinking the comparative perspective on class and representation: Evidence from Latin America
Does it matter that working-class citizens are numerically underrepresented in political offices throughout the world? For decades, the conventional wisdom in comparative politics has been that it does not, that lawmakers from different classes think and behave roughly the same in office. In this paper, we argue that this conclusion is misguided. Past research relied on inappropriate measures of officeholders' class backgrounds, attitudes, and choices. Using data on 18 Latin American legislatures, we show that lawmakers from different classes bring different economic attitudes to the legislative process. And using data on one least-likely case, we show that pre-voting decisions like sponsoring legislation often differ dramatically along social class lines, even when political parties control higher-visibility decisions like roll-call votes. The unequal numerical or descriptive representation of social classes in the world's legislatures has important consequences for the substantive representation of different class interests.
Working Paper of the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies
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