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A new measure of congruence: The earth mover's distance

Lupu, Noam, Selios, Lucia and Warner, Zach ORCID: 2017. A new measure of congruence: The earth mover's distance. Political Analysis 25 (1) , pp. 95-113. 10.1017/pan.2017.2

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Scholars of representation are increasingly interested in mass–elite congruence—the degree to which the preferences of elected elites mirror those of voters. Yet existing measures of congruence can be misleading because they ignore information in the data, require arbitrary decisions about quantization, and limit researchers to comparing masses and elites on a single dimension. We introduce a new measure of congruence—borrowed from computer science—that addresses all of these problems: the Earth Mover’s Distance (EMD). We demonstrate its conceptual advantages and apply it to two debates in research on mass–elite congruence: ideological congruence in majoritarian and proportional systems and the determinants of congruence across countries in Latin America. We find that improving measurement using the EMD has important implications for inferences regarding both empirical debates. Even beyond studies of congruence, the EMD is a useful and reliable way for political scientists to compare distributions.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Law
Department of Politics and International Relations (POLIR)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISSN: 1047-1987
Last Modified: 24 Oct 2022 08:07

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