Non-White Representation on America’s City Councils

Compton Mayor Aja Brown (Ted Soqui/APImages)
Compton Mayor Aja Brown (Ted Soqui/APImages)
Compton Mayor Aja Brown (Ted Soqui/APImages)


(The Washington Post) – In a recent post at Pacific Standard, I examined the relationship between the percent of African Americans in a city population and the percent on the city council. What the evidence suggested was that Ferguson, Mo., was a serious outlier. As of 2001, just over 50% of its population was African American while none of its city council was. Today, 67% of the population is African American, while 17% (1 member) of the city council is. This is one of the largest representational gaps for African Americans in any U.S. city.

But what the chart also showed is that overall, there’s a fairly strong representational relationship for African Americans. When a city is majority African American, it tends to have a majority African American city council.

Jessica Trounstine provided me with some additional data generated from the International City/County Management Association‘s database from 2011. This first plot below shows the percentage of each city’s population that is African American and the percentage of the city council that is African American in cities with at least 10,000 residents. The red diagonal line shows where the data points would lie if the percentage in the population mirrored the percentage on the city council.


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