The Personal Backgrounds of National Legislators in the World’s Democracies

Co-authored with Nicholas Carnes, Joshua Ferrer, Esme Lillywhite, Noam Lupu, and Eugenia Nazrullaeva

Prepared for presentation at the 2022 annual meetings of the American Political Science Association, 15–18 September, Montreal.

This note describes the Global Legislators Database (GLD), a new crossnational dataset on the characteristics — political party, gender, age, education, and occupational background — of the roughly 20,000 lawmakers in the world’s democracies. The database focuses on 102 democracies with more than 300,000 residents; for 97 of these nations, it is possible to obtain descriptive information about the overwhelming majority of lawmakers who held office during one session of the country’s lower or unicamerical legislature that sat in the years 2016 to 2017. The GLD is one of the only large-scale comparative politician databases to focus on national legislatures, and it includes information about 99.9 percent of lawmakers, a rate that far surpasses that of other comparable individual-level datasets. In this note, we show that the GLD’s estimates of country-level characteristics such as female representation are strongly validated by other available estimates; we preview some of the GLD’s many potential applications by conducting simple tests of hypotheses about gender-, education, and occupationally-based gaps in reelectation rates; and we discuss other possible uses for this one-of-a-kind resource for studying representation in the world’s democracies.

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Updated: Oct 24

Co-authored with Mats Ahrenshop, Saad Gulzar, and Luke Sonnet.

We report results of a forecasting experiment about a randomized controlled trial that was conducted in the field. The experiment asks Ph.D. students, faculty, and policy practitioners to forecast (1) compliance rates for the RCT and (2) treatment effects of the intervention. The forecasting experiment randomizes the order of questions about compliance and treatment effects and the provision of information that a pilot experiment was conducted which produced null results. Forecasters were excessively optimistic about treatment effects and unresponsive to item order as well as to information about a pilot. Those who declare themselves expert in the area relevant to the intervention are particularly resistant to new information that the treatment is ineffective. We interpret our results as suggesting that we should exercise caution when undertaking expert forecasting, since experts may have unrealistic expectations and may be inflexible in altering these even when provided new information. Download the full paper below.

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  • Co-authored with Saad Gulzar and Luke Sonnet

Updated: Oct 24

Co-authored with Saad Gulzar and Luke Sonnet

How politicians and voters communicate with one another grounds democratic accountability. We show that in Pakistan existing face-to-face communication may not be as elite-skewed as is commonly assumed. In a field experiment, we test improving communication with Interactive Voice Response technology, allowing politicians to script and record questions for voters and voters to respond on cell phones. We find that while IVR changes the initiator, scope, content, scale, personalism, and frequency of communication, and politicians and voters exhibit eagerness to engage, politicians do not follow through with changes in policy-relevant behavior and voters' downstream political attitudes and behavior remain unaltered. Read the full paper below.

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