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Cause or Effect? Turnout in Hispanic Majority-Minority Districts

  • John A. Henderson (a1), Jasjeet S. Sekhon (a2) and Rocío Titiunik (a3)
Abstract

Legislative redistricting alters the political and electoral context for some voters but not others, thus offering a potentially promising research design to study many questions of interest in political science. We apply this design to study the effect that descriptive representation has on co-ethnic political engagement, focusing on Hispanic participation following California's 2000 redistricting cycle. We show that when redistrictors draw legislative boundaries in California's 1990, 2000, and 2010 apportionment cycles, they systematically sort higher-participating Hispanic voters into majority-Hispanic (MH) jurisdictions represented by co-ethnic candidates, biasing subsequent comparisons of Hispanic participation across districts. Similar sorting occurs during redistricting in Florida and Texas, though here the pattern is reversed, with less-participating Hispanic voters redistricted to MH districts. Our study highlights important heterogeneity in redistricting largely unknown or underappreciated in previous research. Ignoring this selection problem could significantly bias estimates of the effect of Hispanic representation, either positively or negatively. After we correct for these biases using a hierarchical genetic matching algorithm, we find that, in California, being moved to a district with an Hispanic incumbent has little impact on Hispanic participation in our data.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
e-mail: sekhon@berkeley.edu; URL: http://sekhon.berkeley.edu/ (corresponding author)
Footnotes
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Authors’ note: For valuable comments we thank Bruce Cain, Devin Caughey, Rudy de La Garza, Erin Hartman, Richard Johnston, Michael McDonald, Paul Sniderman, and Jonathan Wand. Nicole Boyle at the California Statewide Database helped provide data and answered our many questions, and we thank practitioners involved in redistricting who spoke with us in confidence. All errors are our responsibility. Replication data are available online at the Political Analysis Dataverse. A Supplementary Appendix for this article are available on the Political Analysis Web site

Footnotes
References
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Abadie, Alberto. 2005. Semiparametric difference-in-differences estimators. Review of Economic Studies 72:119.
Ansolabehere, Stephen, Snyder, James M., and Stewart, Charles. 2000. Old voters, new voters, and the personal vote: Using redistricting to measure the incumbency advantage. American Journal of Political Science 44(1):1734.
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Barreto, Matt A., Segura, Gary M., and Woods, Nathan D. 2004. The mobilizing effect of majority-minority districts on Latino turnout. American Political Science Review 98(1):6575.
Cain, Bruce, MacDonald, Karin, and Hui, Iris. 2006. Competition and redistricting in California: Lessons for reform. Institute of Governmental Studies.
Chen, Jowei, and Rodden, Jonathan. 2013. Unintentional gerrymandering: Political geography and electoral bias in legislatures. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 8(2):239–69.
De la Garza, Rodolfo O, and DeSipio, Louis. 1992. Save the baby, change the bathwater, and scrub the tub: Latino electoral participation after seventeen years of Voting Rights Act coverage. Texas Law Review 71:1479.
Fraga, Bernard L. 2016. Redistricting and the causal impact of race on voter turnout. Journal of Politics.
Henderson, John A., Sekhon, Jasjeet S., and Titiunik, Rocío. 2016. Cause or effect? Turnout in Hispanic majority-minority districts. http://dx.doi.org/10.7910/DVN/D6HU1J, Harvard Dataverse, v1.
King, Gary, Palmquist, Bradley, Adams, Greg, Altman, Micah, Benoit, Kenneth, Gay, Claudine, Lewis, Jeffrey B., Mayer, Russ, and Reinhardt, Eric. 1997. The record of American Democracy, 1984–1990. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA [producer], Ann Arbor, MI: ICPSR [distributor].
Sekhon, Jasjeet S., and Titiunik, Rocío. 2012. When natural experiments are neither natural nor experiments. American Political Science Review 106(1):3557.
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Political Analysis
  • ISSN: 1047-1987
  • EISSN: 1476-4989
  • URL: /core/journals/political-analysis
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