Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Racial Diversity in Montgomery's State Legislative Delegation

State Legislators
District White Black Asian Latino
White Black Asian Latino
14 58.9 19.6 13.6 6.2
3 1 0 0
15 65.0 8.5 18.0 7.0
3 1 0 0
16 75.8 4.4 10.9 7.0
3 0 1 0
17 49.2 12.8 17.7 19.0
3 0 1 0
18 50.5 14.3 10.8 21.9
1 0 1
19 51.5 18.2 13.6 15.3
4 0 0 0
20 32.7 33.5 11.8 23.1
4 0 0 0
39 50.4 17.2 16.3 14.2
3 0 1 0
ALL 54.9 15.9 13.3 13.8
25 3 3 1

Much of the discussion over state legislative vacancies was dominated by the need to increase the share of women and the racial diversity of the County's delegation. Today, I take a quick look at the current level of racial diversity among state legislators from Montgomery and the relation to the racial composition of legislative districts.

Whites form just under 54.9% of the County's population but 78.1% of the County's state legislative delegation. Blacks, Asians, and Latinos form 15.9%, 13.3%, and 13.8% of the population, respectively, but only 9.4%, 9.4%, and 3.1% of the legislative delegation.

Asians would need just one more legislative seat to achieve parity with population. African Americans would require two more seats to reach parity. Latinos have the largest gap between share in the population and the delegation. High rates of non-citizenship among Latinos account for a portion, though not all, of this gap.

Interestingly, there is little relationship between the racial composition of a legislative district and the share of minority legislators. The correlation between these two factors is actually negative (r = -0.36) indicating that one is more likely to find minority legislators in districts with relatively few minority residents.

Districts 19 and 20 help explain this surprising outcome. Although District 20 is the only district in the County in which whites form significantly less than one-half of the population, all of the its state legislators are white. Four districts (Districts 17, 18, 19, and 39) are roughly one-half white. District 19 has no minority state legislators while Districts 17 and 39 have one. District 18 has two due to the recent appointment of Delegate Al Carr.

In contrast, the three districts with clear white majorities (Districts 14, 15, and 16) all have one minority member of their legislative delegations. Put another way, the whitest districts in the County have as much or more minority representation than every other district except District 18. Notably, they each have more minority representation than the County's single district in which minority groups form a sizable majority of the population.

This presence of minority legislators but the lack of a strict relationship between district racial composition and where minority legislators serve may be a good thing. If character and quality matter more than fitting into the right box, one would expect at least some disjuncture between racial composition and the race of legislators.

Does anyone want to seriously suggest that Del. Craig Rice somehow becomes less eligible or less capable of representing District 15 because he is an African-American man but African Americans comprise under 9% of his constituents?

On the other hand, the table also suggests where further gains in minority representation are most likely to occur: Districts 19 and 20. Neither district has any minority state legislators though both are home to relatively high minority populations.

Despite its strong liberal tradition and pride in its urban diversity, the City Council of Takoma Park does not provide a fertile ground for recruitment of future minority legislators in District 20. As a member of the County Council pointed out to me, Takoma Park does not have a single minority person on the City Council. According to the 2000 Census, Takoma Park was 48.8% white, 34.0% black, 14.4% Latino, and 4.4% Asian.

Note: The left side of the table shows the percentage of the population falling into different racial groups according to the most recent edition of The Almanac of State Legislative Elections for the state legislative districts and the 2006 U.S. Census estimates for the county as a whole. The right side of the table shows the number of state legislators falling in each of the same racial categories.