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


  • Ebonya Washington


Conventional wisdom and empirical academic research conclude that creating majority-black districts decreases black representation by increasing conservatism in Congress. However, this research generally suffers from three limitations: too low a level of aggregation, lack of a counterfactual, and failure to account for the endogeneity of the creation of majority-minority districts. I compare congressional delegations from states that during the 1990 redistricting were under greater pressure to create majority-minority districts with those under lesser pressure using a difference-in-differences framework. I find no evidence that the creation of majority-minority districts leads to more conservative House delegations. In fact, point estimates, although largely statistically insignificant, indicate that states that increased their shares 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Ebonya Washington, 2012. "Do Majority-Black Districts Limit Blacks' Representation? The Case of the 1990 Redistricting," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 55(2), pages 251-274.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/661991

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Washington, Ebonya, 2006. "How Black Candidates Affect Voter Turnout," Working Papers 16, Yale University, Department of Economics.
    2. Kan, Kamhon & Yang, C C, 2001. "On Expressive Voting: Evidence from the 1988 U.S. Presidential Election," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 108(3-4), pages 295-312, September.
    3. Christian R. Grose, 2005. "Disentangling Constituency and Legislator Effects in Legislative Representation: Black Legislators or Black Districts?," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 86(2), pages 427-443.
    4. Gilligan, Thomas W & Matsusaka, John G, 1999. "Structural Constraints on Partisan Bias under the Efficient Gerrymander," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 100(1-2), pages 65-84, July.
    5. Ebonya Washington, 2006. "How Black Candidates Affect Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 121(3), pages 973-998.
    6. Keisuke Nakao, 2011. "Racial Redistricting For Minority Representation Without Partisan Bias: A Theoretical Approach," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 23(1), pages 132-151, March.
    7. Ebonya Washington, 2006. "How Black Candidates Affect Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 11915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. John N. Friedman & Richard T. Holden, 2008. "Optimal Gerrymandering: Sometimes Pack, but Never Crack," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 113-144, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Trevon D. Logan, 2018. "Do Black Politicians Matter?," NBER Working Papers 24190, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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