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Democratic Institutions Beyond the Nation State: Measuring Institutional Dissimilarity in Federal Countries


The persistence of subnational undemocratic regimes in new democracies has recently revived interest in intra-national patterns of democratization. This article offers new data and a methodological contribution to this literature, emphasizing the measurement of institutional variation across territorial units and levels of government. Developing new measures of the unevenness of democratic institutions within individual countries, and illustrating these measures with an original data set on electoral rules in Mexico at the federal level and across 32 subnational units, we provide tools to enhance the study of democracy, particularly at the subnational level and in federal or decentralized systems. More specifically, we develop measures of institutional characteristics across a country's spatial units and of federal-to-state institutional dissimilarity – what we call system-wide institutional incongruence.

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Imke Harbers is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Latin American Research and Documentation. Contact email: Matthew C. Ingram is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, State University of New York. Contact email: Both authors contributed equally to this work.

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
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