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Affluence and Congruence: Unequal Representation around the World

Do elected representatives reflect the preferences of the citizens they represent? Recent studies from the United States and a number of other democracies have found that legislators tend to represent better the preferences of affluent citizens. However, we still know little about how widespread this bias is. To answer this question, we gathered every publicly available survey of elected representatives in the world and matched it with mass survey data. Our data set consists of 92,000 elite observations and 3.9 million citizen observations spread across 565 country-years, 52 individual countries, and 33 years. Using a variety of methods, we find that around the world, legislators’ preferences are consistently more congruent with those of affluent citizens. However, we also find that this inequality varies substantially by issue domain: while the affluent are better represented on economic issues, the poor seem to be overrepresented on cultural issues.