A New Measure of Congruence: The Earth Mover's Distance

Noam Lupu, Lucía Selios, Zach Warner
2017 Political Analysis  
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
more » ... 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.
doi:10.1017/pan.2017.2 fatcat:rfurmglw3bejxefein4aoqzpia