GUSP Workshop 03/20/2018

Tue, March 20, 2018 2:00 PM - Tue, March 20, 2018 4:00 PM at 457 Berkey Hall

Racial Gerrymandering of Municipal Borders: Direct Democracy, Participatory Democracy, and Voting Rights in the United States

Dr. Noah Durst
School of Planning, Design and Construction
Michigan State University

Date: Tuesday, March 20th
Time: 2pm-4pm
Location: 457 Berkey Hall
As cities expand their jurisdictional borders via the process of municipal annexation, they sometimes leave low-income and minority enclaves perpetually excluded on the urban fringe, a process known as municipal underbounding. Despite a number of small-scale studies documenting the gerrymandering of municipal borders, robust empirical evidence of its extent is limited and little is known about the institutional factors that facilitate or stymie efforts to underbound poor and minority communities. In this article, a metropolitan area matching design is used to measure the effect of state annexation laws and federal protection of voting rights under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act on municipal underbounding between 1990 and 2010 in the United States. The analysis finds that laws that facilitate participation by city residents in annexation decisions lead to the underbounding of black neighborhoods, whereas those that provide third-party oversight of annexation decisions or expand opportunities for participation by residents living on the fringe lead to the inclusion of black neighborhoods. There is little evidence that such patterns of underbounding are driven by economic or fiscal considerations. In light of the 2013 invalidation by the Supreme Court of Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, there is likely a nascent return to racial gerrymandering of municipal borders occurring in the South, particularly in states where city residents are granted some measure of influence over annexation. The results suggest the need for renewed attention to local government boundary changes and their role in facilitating and exacerbating racial discrimination.

Noah J. Durst is an assistant professor in SPDC's Urban & Regional Planning Program. He joined the program in 2017, after earning a PhD in public policy from the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he also completed masters degrees in public affairs and Latin American studies. Durst employs mixed methods--both quantitative and qualitative--to examine the intended and unintended effects of planning and policy-making on issues of social equity. Much of his research to date has examined the challenges and implications of informality in U.S. housing markets.