Legislature Size and Non-Elite Populations Theory and Corroborating Evidence

  •  Scot Schraufnagel    
  •  Ben S. Bingle    


This research tests the association between legislature size and the size of ‘non-elite’ populations in the American states. The theoretical assumption is that larger legislatures will be populated by a more diverse group of members, who will better represent and advocate for non-elites. Data are drawn from three time periods, which captures considerable variation in important variables, and provides a robust test of association between the size of state legislatures and certain sub-populations. The research demonstrates that larger Lower Chambers are marginally associated with a lower percentage of adults without a high school diploma, easily associated with a larger percentage of the states’ poor receiving Medicaid, and also related to smaller state prison populations. This is the case after controlling for demographic and economic factors that also predict the size of these sub-populations. The findings suggest legislature size plays a role in dominant contemporary policy arenas and that there may be societal benefits associated with larger—more diverse—assemblies.

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