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Column: Congressional districts more alike than distinct

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Readers of this column are likely to know the name of their representative in Congress. However, even these involved citizens are not likely to know the number of their congressional district.

And why should we know that number? It keeps changing for most of us as Indiana loses seats in Congress because our population growth lags the national rate of growth. Now we are down to nine representatives with the boundaries changing as the legislative party in power mangles district borders to maintain its political supremacy.

It is difficult to write a column about those districts without this necessarily incomplete introduction:

  • District 1 Peter Viscloskey (D), northwest Indiana
  • District 2 Jackie Walorski (R), South Bend to Peru
  • District 3 Marlin Stutzman (R), Fort Wayne, northeast Indiana
  • District 4 Todd Rokita (R), Lafayette, western Indy suburbs
  • District 5 Susan Brooks (R), Carmel to Marion
  • District 6 Luke Messer (R), east-central Indiana
  • District 7 Andre Carson (D), most of Indy
  • District 8 Larry Bucshon (R), Terre Haute to Evansville
  • District 9 Todd Young (R), Bloomington south to the Ohio River

The latest data on these districts come from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2012. Those data show the districts are fairly even in population size (as they are mandated to be) but do vary in many characteristics. District 6 has a median age approaching 40, while District 7’s median age tends toward 33. District 8 has 16,200 people 85 and older, while District 7 has but 8,500 in that age group.

Districts 6, 8 and 9 have more than 92 percent of their population identified as white, while District 7 stands at 60 percent. In District 1, 14 percent of the people identify themselves as Hispanic or Latino. This figure falls to 2 percent in Districts 6 and 8.

District 8 has more than three-quarters of its population living in their state of birth. Statewide that number is 68 percent, meaning that more than two-thirds of all Hoosiers might have been born with a basketball in hand. Certainly, we cannot claim to be a great melting pot.

It would seem that the least mobile of our citizens are in District 1, where 87 percent of people 1 year and older lived in the same house as they did a year earlier.

Nearly one-quarter of Hoosiers claim German ancestry — 1.5 million people, 23 percent. This concentration is greatest in District 3 (31 percent) and least in District 7. People of Irish descent (12 percent of the population) are most prevalent in District 1.

District 5 stands alone at the top of the money ladder with a median household income $61,130. The next best is District 1 at $50,600; on the bottom rung is District 7 at $37,150. About one-fifth of the families in poverty live in District 7.

Almost 29 percent of the households with incomes of $200,000 or more reside in District 5.

Do facts matter in elections? Most likely the nine 2014 congressional races will be decided by passions and momentary distractions rather than the basic issues of who we are.

Morton Marcus is an economist, formerly with the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.

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