Do majority-minority districts maximize substantive black representation in congress?

Charles Cameron, David Epstein, Sharyn O'Halloran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

293 Scopus citations


Majority-minority voting districts have been advanced as a remedy to the underrepresentation of minority interests in the political process. Yet, their efficacy in furthering the substantive goals of minority constituents has been questioned because they may dilute minority influence in surrounding areas and lead to an overall decrease in support for minority-sponsored legislation. Thus, there may be a trade-off between increasing the number of minority officeholders and enacting legislation that furthers the interests of the minority community. Using nonlinear estimation techniques, we simulate the districting strategies that maximize substantive minority representation, and find that such a trade-off does exist. We also find that, outside of the South, dividing minority voters equally across districts maximizes substantive representation; inside the South the optimal scheme creates concentrated districts on the order of 47% black voting age population. In addition, minority candidates may have a substantial chance of being elected from districts with less than 50% minority voters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)794-812
Number of pages19
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1996
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


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