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Social Context and Economic Biases in Representation

Christopher Ellis
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 75, No. 3 (May. 29, 2013), pp. 773-786
DOI: 10.1017/s0022381613000376
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1017/s0022381613000376
Page Count: 14
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Social Context and Economic Biases in Representation
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Abstract

This article explores the role of political context in shaping economic biases in representation—the degree to which wealthy citizens’ views are more strongly represented than poorer citizens’ views in the choices of policymakers. I develop a general model that explains why poorer citizens will be better represented relative to the rich in certain political contexts than others, arguing that the relative representation of the poor will be stronger in contexts that make the views of the poor relevant and accessible to policymakers. I then derive several specific hypotheses that flow from this model and test these hypotheses through a study of the dyadic relationships between citizens and their representatives in the U.S. Congress. The results show that poorer citizens are better represented relative to the rich in Congressional districts that are electorally competitive, have low median incomes, have relatively equal distributions of incomes, have a significant organized labor presence, and are represented by Democrats.

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