The Census Bureau recently released all of its data from the 2008 American Community Survey estimates, which is like Christmas Day in the Crisitunity household. I'll be looking at the data divvied up by congressional district in several different ways in the coming week; today, I'm starting with the most basic element: population change. This doesn't tell us much about how the composition of each district is changing, but it tells us a lot about what direction different districts are heading as we approach 2010 redistricting.
Let's start with the 25 districts that have experience the greatest population change over the period from the 2000 census to the 2008 estimate, in terms of raw numbers. These are the districts that will be shedding population in 2010, in some cases into newly-created districts:
Bono Mack (R)
T. Price (R)
S. Johnson (R)
L. Smith (R)
D. Price (D)
M. Diaz-Balart (R)
You may recall that we looked at this same project a year ago, using 2007 data. Compared with last year's list of the top 20 gainers, there's a lot of stability. AZ-02 moves up from #3 to the top spot, with AZ-06 falling to second place. Entrants to the list are TX-31, CA-25, TX-21, NC-04, and FL-06, while GA-03, ID-01, FL-08, VA-10, and WA-08 fall off.
And here are the districts that have lost the most population in the period from 2000 to 2008. These ones will need to absorb the most surrounding territory (or simply be eliminated and dispersed into their neighboring districts):
A. Davis (D)
B. Thompson (D)
D. Davis (D)
J. Jackson (D)
No surprise here in terms of change: the Katrina-ravaged LA-02 is still the biggest loser of population (although it's currently a very fast growing district, as it gradually repopulates). Detroit and Cleveland, though, are depopulating as a result of their own disasters (economic in this case), and MI-13 and OH-11 both nose ahead of the former #2, Pittsburgh's PA-14. Near the bottom of the list, the dwindling IL-01, PA-12, MI-05, IN-07, and IL-02 move on, while CA-09, KS-01, PA-05, CA-53, and MA-08 arrest their decline a bit and move off the list.
My observations remain much the same as last year: the David Brookses of the world would look at the sheer number of exurban red districts in the fast-growing column and the number of urban blue districts in the shrinking column, and point to hundreds of years of Republican dominance as urbanites are pulling away from the teat of the welfare state and moving out to the exurbs to make a fresh start as Patio Man and Realtor Mom.
Not exactly: as the suburbs start to spread outward into these districts, bringing their annoying diversity, density, and workaday problems with them, these red districts are, for the most part, becoming Democratic. Just for a few examples, consider CA-25, which went from 59-40 for Bush to 49-48 for Obama, or NC-09, which went from 63-36 for Bush to 55-45 for McCain. In addition -- as we'll see in the next installment, where we'll focus on changes in race -- immigrants are often making the suburbs their first destination, quickly changing the complexion of the outer rings around many cities.
Some of you may be wondering, "Well, wouldn't change by percentage instead of by raw numbers be more interesting?" In this case, it barely makes a difference in terms of ranking, because we're starting from essentially the same baseline everywhere in 2000 (generally around 660,000). The most noteworthy exception is UT-03, which is lower down the list of gainers (13th) when ordered by percentage because Utah districts started out large.
Another way of looking at this question that isn't quite so interesting is: what are the most (and least populous) districts? Most of the lists are completely the same, but there are some oddball picks in there, districts that simply started out very big (MT-AL) or very small (WY-AL). The top 10 most populous, by 2008 numbers, are: AZ-02, UT-03, MT-AL, NV-03, AZ-06, TX-10, FL-05, GA-07, UT-01, and UT-02. The 10 least populous are: LA-02, RI-01, RI-02, WY-AL, OH-11, NE-03, MI-13, IA-05, PA-14, and WV-03. (These suggest that, come 2020, we may be looking at Rhode Island dropping to a single district and Nebraska and West Virginia dropping to two each.)
Finally, here's one other way of slicing and dicing the numbers that's worth a look: the population change between 2007 and 2008. I was expecting to see a lot of people fleeing the worst epicenters of economic collapse (the manufacturing problems of Detroit and Cleveland, the housing bubble-related problems of Phoenix, southern Florida, and California's Central Valley), but I simply don't see much of a pattern. More likely what happened is that the economic crisis really put a damper on overall mobility in the last year, as many demographers have suggested... and what we're seeing is a lot of float within the margin of error (as, remember, the ACS is an estimate, and there's a plus-or-minus of more than 10,000 on their population estimates).
Here are the biggest gainers over one year. As I hinted at, the fastest growing district is LA-02, although it's still way off from its peak:
T. Bishop (D)
Lo. Sanchez (D)
And here are the biggest losers. There are a lot of southern California districts here, but they tend to be either Hispanic-majority districts or comfortable, established areas (CA-46), rather than the stereotypical instant exurbs of CA-44 and CA-45 where option ARMs got a new generation of homeowners into the balsa-wood-and-drywall duplexes of their dreams. Also, interestingly, rather than the canyons of empty condo towers along Florida's Gold Coast, instead the leader is FL-21, a neighborhood of established middle-class Cubano suburbs west of Miami.