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Title page for ETD etd-12022013-105828

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Corral Gonzalez, Margarita
URN etd-12022013-105828
Title Uneven Representation? Analysis of Democratic Responsiveness in Latin America
Degree PhD
Department Political Science
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Elizabeth J. Zechmeister Committee Chair
Manuel Alcantara Committee Member
Mitchell A. Seligson Committee Member
Zeynep Somer-Topcu Committee Member
  • participation
  • Latin America
  • institutions
  • political representation
Date of Defense 2013-11-04
Availability unrestricted
To what extent are different groups of citizens evenly represented in Latin America? Under what circumstances do disadvantaged groups’ interests manage to get represented? This dissertation examines the extent to which different subgroups are under-represented in Latin American politics and, as well, whether there are some institutional designs, namely with respect to the nature of and rules governing the electoral system, or cultural features (in particular, those of a participatory culture) that might lead to more equal representation outcomes than others. Findings suggest that there is a general perception that politicians tend to defend the interests of the better off and that wealth at the individual level and electoral rules matter for perceptions of political inequality. Specifically, being poor increases the likelihood of perceiving a larger gap between actual and ideal political representation. Regarding electoral rules, the results depict a clear relationship between the magnitude of electoral systems and perceptions of political inequalities: the larger the proportion of small districts in a political system, the smaller the gap in perceived political inequality. Contrary to expectations, the larger the number of parties in Latin America, the larger the levels of political inequality citizens perceive. Also, the presence of leftist parties is related to lower levels of perceived political inequities. Finally, high levels of electoral turnout are strongly related to lower levels of perceived political inequality.

Regarding substantive representation, consistent with expectations, in most countries legislators’ preferences are more closely related to the policy preferences of the better off than the underprivileged. However, the analyses reveal that unlike in the case of perceptions, electoral institutions do not matter for policy representation, at least for policy representation as measured in this dissertation. Only to some extent in systems with a large number of small districts does the distance in the preferences between the poor and legislators decrease. Finally, in the case of Bolivia, electoral rules do not have significant impacts on policy representation or descriptive representation.

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