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Umm, Congressional Districts Are Roughly the Same Size

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Tuesday, 25 January 2011 05:27

The New York Times told readers that: "The median Democratic Congressional district now has a population 11 times as large as the median Republican Congressional district, according to an analysis by Transportation Weekly, a trade publication that focuses on federal transportation spending."

This is not right. Congressional districts are required to have roughly the same population under the constitution. There cannot be perfect equality since districts cannot cross state lines but the most populous district does not have even twice the population of the least populated district. The idea that the median Democratic district has 11 times the population of the median Republican district is absurd on its face.

 

[Addendum: the NYT corrected this article -- ratio referred to population densities, not population.

Comments (13)Add Comment
Density
written by Michael, January 25, 2011 6:00
Clearly an error, but I think the source is referring to population density, which maps with a reference earlier in the article to "more rural" districts.
The Suspension of Disbelief
written by Ron Alley, January 25, 2011 6:29
I had not read that article. Thanks for covering it. Apparently the suspension of disbelief is critical to reading both the Times and the great novels.

Just an observation. The congressional district with the greatest population here in Minnesota is the 6th District held by -- you guessed it -- Michelle Bachmann. Those with the smallest population are held by Democrats.
...
written by kharris, January 25, 2011 6:45
Could be density. Or might the writer have meant "Senate District" by which (s)he would have mean "State". Republicans do tend to dominate the low-population states.
...
written by izzatzo, January 25, 2011 6:58
Sounds about right. Recent studies by the non-partisan Census Office show Democrats to be about 11 times as dense as Republicans.

Stupid liberals.
Correction made
written by AndrewDover, January 25, 2011 7:05
It now says:
"The median Republican Congressional district now has a population density 11 times smaller than the median Democratic district, "
...
written by wil cummings, January 25, 2011 7:22
A direct citation allowing for double checking would be useful. Where did this appear in the NYT?
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written by Robert Baillie, January 25, 2011 7:50
The times article has now posted a correction: D districts are 11 times the density of Repub districts.
Glenn Beck's vote counts for 10 of mine! To pitchforks!!
written by Joe K, January 25, 2011 9:59
Not that I have one, but that was my initial thought (dropping 'to arms' for civility purposes). But with the correction, I'll have to bide my time, satisfied only with the assuredness that liberals, while denser than conservatives, are way nicer.
Senate
written by PeakVT, January 25, 2011 10:57
For the record, the largest state has 66 times the population of the smallest. The top state for density is 1,046 less empty per square mile area than the least.
...
written by Calgacus, January 25, 2011 1:43
What! Are they calling Democrats fat!!
...
written by vorpal, January 25, 2011 2:08
the article has been corrected. evidently economic sophistry is OK, but blatant innnumeracy is unacceptable.
riiiiiight
written by Damon, January 26, 2011 4:21
"Glenn Beck's vote counts for 10 of mine! To pitchforks!!
written by Joe K, January 25, 2011 10:59 AM
Not that I have one, but that was my initial thought (dropping 'to arms' for civility purposes). But with the correction, I'll have to bide my time, satisfied only with the assuredness that liberals, while denser than conservatives, are way nicer."

Because liberals first inclination is to violence, obviously.
Congressional Districts
written by Paul, January 28, 2011 9:36
I believe that congressional district population size must be within .5% of each other within the same state. I think it is possible to have more populated districts across state lines (compare Montana to Oklahoma for example).

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.

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