Do Majority Black Districts Limit Blacks' Representation? The Case of the 1990 Redistricting

Ebonya L. Washington

NBER Working Paper No. 17099
Issued in May 2011, Revised in December 2011
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Political Economy

Conventional wisdom and empirical academic research conclude that majority Black districts decrease Black representation by increasing conservatism in Congress. However, this research generally suffers from three limitations: 1) too low a level of aggregation 2) lack of a counterfactual and 3) failure to account for the endogeneity of the creation of majority minority districts. I compare congressional delegations of states that during the 1990 redistricting were under greater pressure to create majority minority districts with those under lesser pressure in a difference-in-difference framework. I find no evidence that the creation of majority minority districts leads to more conservative House delegations. In fact point estimates indicate that states that increased their share of majority Black districts saw their delegations grow increasingly liberal. I find similar results for majority Latino districts in the southwest. Thus I find no evidence for the common view that majority minority districts decrease minority representation in Congress.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w17099

Published: “Do Majority Black Districts Lim it Blacks’ Representation? The Case of the 1990 Redistricting” Journal of Law and Economics , 2012, 55 (2) 251-274.

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