Assessing the Causes of District Homogeneity in U.S. House Elections

48 Pages Posted: 7 Sep 2017

See all articles by Richard Powell

Richard Powell

University of Maine

Jesse Clark

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science, Students

Matthew Dube

University of Maine

Date Written: September 5, 2017

Abstract

The argument that U.S. House districts have become more demographically homogenous over time—either through intentional gerrymandering, geographic self-sorting, or some combination of the two— is a central component of most explanations of the growth of partisan polarization in Congress. In recent research, we developed a highly sophisticated method of creating simulated, randomized districts in all states with more than one member of the House (see Powell, Clark, and Dube 2015, 2016). In this paper we build on that prior research to examine the extent to which geographic self-sorting may or may not account for trends in district homogeneity. To do so, we compare the homogeneity of actual districts as drawn to repeated iterations of randomized, simulated districts within each state. We extend this analysis to examine changes in the margins of victory in these districts. Thus, this paper presents a thorough examination of the hypothesis that geographic self-sorting (or intentional gerrymandering) is creating safer House seats and a more polarized legislative environment in Congress.

Keywords: District, Homogeneity, Polarization, Self-Sorting

Suggested Citation

Powell, Richard and Clark, Jesse and Dube, Matthew, Assessing the Causes of District Homogeneity in U.S. House Elections (September 5, 2017). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2017-22. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3032604 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3032604

Richard Powell (Contact Author)

University of Maine ( email )

Jesse Clark

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Matthew Dube

University of Maine ( email )

Orono, ME 04469
United States

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