Legislative Power and the Representation of Ethnic Groups

In their 2014 article, Leslie Schwindt-Bayer and Peverill Squire show that the political power of legislatures can affect gender representativeness of legislatures. In the article they discuss likely mechanisms and suggests that the same result applies to ethnic groups. The argument is that in a legislature with more professional power, need to provide representatives with incentives to compensate for their investments like long sessions. These incentives, in turn, encourage incumbents to preserve their seats and discriminate against under-represented groups. Sounds reasonable enough, but ever since collecting information on the ethnic composition of legislatures worldwide, I have been keen to empirically check such claims.

I did so using the spreadsheet from the DICE Database and my own data on ethnic representation. This gives me 35 countries to have a quick look at the claim: there is no such correlation among the countries examined.


Ruedin, Didier. 2009. ‘Ethnic Group Representation in a Cross-National Comparison’. The Journal of Legislative Studies 15 (4): 335–54. doi:10.1080/13572330903302448.

———. 2010. ‘The Relationship between Levels of Gender and Ethnic Group Representation’. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism 10 (2): 92–106. doi:10.1111/j.1754-9469.2010.01066.x.

———. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.

Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie, and Peverill Squire. 2014. ‘Legislative Power and Women’s Representation’. Politics & Gender 10 (4): 622–658. doi:10.1017/S1743923X14000440.

Mapping Ethnic Representation Scores in R

Here’s a demonstration of how easy it is to map with the R package rworldmap by Andy South. I map the ethnic representation scores in my 2009 JLS article, available from my Dataverse. I used the tab-delimited file, which contains the country name, Q-scores, R-scores, and a binary indicator of minority presence. I searched&replaced the tabs with commas, and added a new column for the ISO3 country codes.

After that, it’s just a few lines in R:

dta <- read.csv("Representation.csv") # these are the data described above.

> head(dta) gives:
Country ISO3 QScore RScore Present
1 Afghanistan AFG 0.803 0.697 1
2 Albania ALB 0.980 0.510 1
3 Algeria DZA NA NA 1
4 Andorra AND 0.980 0.000 0
5 Angola AGO NA NA 1
6 Antigua & Barbuda ATG 0.910 0.000 0

Next we have to identify the countries. joinCode specifies that I used ISO3, nameJoinColumn specifies the variable with the country abbreviations:

jcd <- joinCountryData2Map(dta, joinCode="ISO3", nameJoinColumn="ISO3")

Next a line from the package vignette that makes the plot use the space available.

Now, while mapCountryData(jcd, nameColumnToPlot="QScore") would suffice to draw a map, I used some of the options available (e.g. a blue ocean, light grey for missing data), and drew the legend separately for a little extra control:

mapParams <- mapCountryData(jcd, nameColumnToPlot="QScore", addLegend=FALSE, mapTitle="Ethnic Representation Scores", oceanCol="light blue", missingCountryCol="light grey")
do.call(addMapLegend, c(mapParams, legendWidth=0.5, legendMar = 4))

The title is a bit off, but other than that, I’m pretty happy for a first cut with so little coding.

Ruedin, Didier. 2009. ‘Ethnic Group Representation in a Cross-National Comparison.’ The Journal of Legislative Studies 15 (4): 335–54. doi:10.1080/13572330903302448.

How (Not) to Study Ideological Representation

David Broockman has an important paper on political representation apparently forthcoming in LSQ.

He notes two ways to study the political representation of issues, policies, and preferences. On the one hand we can examine citizen-elite congruence issue by issue. On the other hand, we can calculate “policy scores” to capture ideal points of overall ideologies and compare these between citizens and the elite. The paper convincingly demonstrates that the latter approach is flawed in the sense that it doesn’t really capture political representation in the way we generally understand it.

Broockman, David E. 2015. “Approaches to Studying Policy Representation.” Legislative Studies Quarterly.

New Publication: The Gap between Public Preferences and Policies on Immigration

Just days after announcing the “SOM book” (Politicization of Immigration), I have the pleasure to announce another product from the SOM project: The Gap between Public Preferences and Policies on Immigration: A Comparative Examination of the Effect of Politicisation on Policy Congruence in JEMS. In this paper Laura Morales, Jean-Benoit Pilet and I examine the purported gap between (restrictive) public opinion on immigration and (expansive) policies by the elite.
Using data from the SOM project and a range of public opinion polls, we consider the situation across seven countries and 15 years (1995 to 2010). This provides a better insight in what is one of the most salient policy domains in contemporary Europe than was done previously. There is no evidence that strong anti-immigrant parties have anything to do with differences between public opinion and elite policies. Just like what I found in my monograph on political representation, it turns out that salience plays a key role. When negative attitudes in the population are combined with extensive media coverage, we observe high levels of policy congruence.

Gender Quotas Become More Effective Over Time

In a forthcoming paper, Pamela Paxton & Melanie Hughes examine the effectiveness of legislative gender quotas. This is an important paper in many ways. Striking is for example their use of a latent growth curve model to overcome something I have always criticized, namely ignoring the trajectory a country is on — essentially the counterfactual. Substantively, they find that legal quotas have become more effective, they’re increasingly “having teeth”.

What I found a bit disappointing, though, is that there was no effort to capture changes in attitudes towards women as political leaders. While this particular analysis in my book is not as fancy as the Paxton & Hughes paper, I compare changes in attitudes with changes in quota provisions and changes in the number of women elected to national legislatures. Changes in attitudes were associated with changes in the legislatures; changes in quotas were not. Now, if quotas have become more effective after around 2005, this is entirely in line with the Paxton & Hughes paper, but what about the situation today?

Paxton, Pamela, and Melanie M. Hughes. 2015 forthcoming. “The Increasing Effectiveness of National Gender Quotas, 1990-2010.” Legislative Studies Quarterly.

Ruedin, Didier. 2013. Why Aren’t They There? The Political Representation of Women, Ethnic Groups and Issue Positions in Legislatures. Colchester: ECPR Press.