Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Census Speaks

Well, now we know which states are going to win and lose (and by how much) in the upcoming apportionment and redistricting of House seats.  With the numbers released today, speculation is already beginning on how these numbers will play out both locally and nationally.  The following map gives a picture of how 12 seats will shift across the country:

Texas comes out, clearly, as the big winner with a gain of 4 House seats (followed by Florida with a pickup of 2) while New York and Ohio emerge as the big losers with a contraction of 2 seats each.

For most, these results aren't surprising.  The population shifts from the industrial north and midwest to the southwest and southeast have been going on for decades--and have been affecting our politics for decades as well.  Nonetheless, the quick analysis that many commentators are providing suggests a boon to Republicans.  For example, of the 8 states gaining seats, 5 voted for John McCain in 2008 while of the 10 states losing seats, 8 voted for President Obama.  Further boosting Republicans is the fact that Republicans will control the redistricting process in most of these states--both gaining and losing seats--putting them in position to further pad their House majority.

A big wildcard in thus, however, is the fact that much of this growth, especially in Texas and Florida, was due to the growth of the Latino population.  In Texas alone, Latinos accounted for 70% of the state's population growth.  Latinos now make up 37% of the Texas population (although only 25% of the electorate).  The fundamental question, for both parties, going forward is how they will appeal to this growing Latino vote.  Should Democrats succeed in further cementing their support in this community, they can mitigate some of the consequences of these broader population shifts to traditionally red states.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New Census Data, Mapping, and the Coming Redistricting

In the last day or so we've started to see the release of a trove of new Census data.  What we're getting now are results from the American Community Survey which tracks demographic changes over the 2005 to 2009 period.  The New York Times has an incredible interactive tool that allows you to pull up maps based on zip code and census tract--allowing you to search by race, income, and a few other variables.

When one maps by race, the prevalence of segregation inevitably, and necessarily, comes up.  Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on some of the work done at the Brookings Institution with this new data.  Interestingly, what the data shows is that residential segregation has actually been on the decline, with differing degrees of white/black and white/Hispanic segregation.  Despite a general positive trend toward desegregation, many metropolitan areas remain highly segregated.  Not surprisingly these areas tend to be concentrated in northern, rust belt states.  I've talked about this phenomenon a lot on this site so I can't say I was too shocked by the findings.  Milwaukee, as it has in many similar studies, sits at the top of the list.  Today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel covers this story from the local perspective (If you want to get really depressed, read the comments section after the story).

Beyond the correlations between race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and voting behavior, this data is important in that it begins to set the context in which the next round of reapportionment and redistricting will take place.  As constituencies get created for local, state, and national offices, politicians oftentimes use deliberate strategies to encompass certain populations within district lines.  At the congressional level, the 1965 Voting Rights Act mandates that race be taken into account in certain circumstances.  Thus, pay attention to how this type of information is used as each state begins this oftentimes highly contentious process in the next few years.  The largest and most comprehensive national portrait, of course, will be provided by the 2010 Census.  The first batch of that data will be released next week so I'll probably have more to say then. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Returning to Slave Maps

Today's NYT--as part of its series remembering the 150th anniversary of the onset of the Civil War--has a short piece on this map, used before on this site.

Be sure to follow the links that zoom in on the map and provide further explanation of the numbers and how their variance from state to state and county to county affected how secession was viewed across the south.