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The New Racial Calculus: Electoral Institutions and Black Representation in Local Legislatures

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In this study we revisit the question of black representation on city councils and school boards using a novel substantive and methodological approach and longitudinal data for a sample of over 300 boards and councils. Conceptualizing black representation as a two-stage process, we fit Mullahy's hurdle Poisson models to explain whether and to what extent blacks achieve representation in local legislatures. We find that while the size of the black population and electoral arrangements matter more than ever, especially for overcoming the representational hurdle, the extent to which the black population is concentrated is also strongly associated with black council representation. Further, whereas black resources and opportunities to build “rainbow” coalitions with Latinos or liberal whites are marginally if at all related to black legislative representation, we find that legislative size is an underappreciated mechanism by which to increase representation, particularly in at-large systems, and is perhaps the best predictor of moving towards additional representation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Rice University 2: Ohio University 3: Macalester College

Publication date: January 1, 2010

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