How big is your room in the House of Representatives?

The average member of the U.S. House of Representatives represents how many people?

The number of people per representative has grown dramatically since nation's founding
  1. How accurate was your prediction?
    How accurate do you think the average American’s prediction would be?

  2. What portion of Americans even know there are three branches of government?

  3. What trend do you see in the data in the chart above?

  4. Describe one cause of that trend.

  5. Explain one consequence of that trend.

  6. What is one negative consequence of having so many people per congressional district?

  7. How much range is there in the size of congressional district in the United States?* (see chart below)

  8. How does the size of American congressional districts compare with other countries?* (see groovy chart below)

  9. There is currently a cap on the membership of the U.S. House of Representatives at 435. Do you think that cap is a good idea?

  10. Imagine you wanted to change the 435 member cap. What method would you need to use to make that change?

  11. Explain why that change be difficult to enact.

  12. Explain which is more democratic, representation in the U.S. House or representation in the U.S. Senate.

Thanks to @MrSautters @RAPLewis @MCMartirone for their ongoing support and for the inspiration for today’s class starter.

Visual Extension*

Wide range of representation ratios across states
The U.S. has the largest representation ratio among OECD nations

Learning Extension

Read the Pew Research Center’s report about U.S. House district size, U.S. population keeps growing, but House of Representatives is same size as in Taft era.

Action Extension

Contact your U.S. House member, let them know what you think about the House’s 435 member cap, and ask them what they plan to do about it. Share your correspondence in class, online, or in a classy oil painting!!!!

Fun Fact Extension

  • The first Congress (1789-91) had 65 House members.

  • A 1929 law authorizing that census also capped the size of the House at 435. And there it has remained, except for a brief period from 1959 to 1963 when the chamber temporarily added two members to represent the newly admitted states of Alaska and Hawaii.

  • One proposal to add seats to the House is the so-called “Wyoming Rule,” which would make the population of the smallest state (currently Wyoming) the basis for the representation ratio. Depending on which variant of that rule were adopted, the House would have had 545 to 547 members following the 2010 census.

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Taxation with Underrepresentation

WhiTe males make up 36% of American voters. What percent of candidates do they make up?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this tell?

  3. Explain why that is?
    What is one consequence of this?
    What is the most surprising content in this data?

  4. What are some of the biggest hurdles to Black women being represented in politics?

  5. Does it matter if politicians look like the people they represent?

  6. If you said no, are you a white male?

  7. What question do you have about this data?
    Is this data good news?

  8. If so, for whom is it good news?

  9. Who is more misrepresented, Black women or White men?

  10. How different do you think these statistics were 50 years ago?

  11. And how different do you think they will be in 50 years?

  12. What groups, not included in this data, do you imagine are even more misrepresented than Black women or White men?

  13. If we changed this chart to reflect representation in the Presidency, what would the chart look like?

  14. Is it good luck to end on question #13?

Learning Extension

Watch the video: Claiming seats at the table: Black women’s electoral strength in an era of fractured politics

Action Extension

Share this data with ten people and ask them if they think that the data matters. Record their race and gender and ask them to examine how much their race and gender impacted their response. Share their responses in class or online.

Ridiculously Cute Furry Australian Animal named QUOKKA Extension

QUOKKAS are real!

QUOKKAS are real!

Reapportionment to be

Based on current population trends, what state will gain the most congressional seats in 2020?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does the map tell?

  3. What geographical regions of the United States are losing congressional seats?

  4. What geographical regions of the United States are gaining congressional seats?

  5. Based on these geographical trends, what changes might we expect in U.S. politics?

  6. What mechanism determines how much representation each state gets?

  7. Is there a maximum or minimum number of U.S. congressional seats a state can have?

  8. How do we determine the U.S. population?

  9. How often do we determine the U.S. population?

  10. Nebraska has a unicameral legislature!!!!! Yes, it's true. How would U.S. politics and policy change if we had a unicameral legislature with representation based only on the population of each state? 

  11. How does reapportionment differ from redistricting?

  12. Because of the changes in the 2010 census most of the lost U.S. House seats came from Democratic leaning states (see below). Do you think the 2020 changes will be better for Republicans or Democrats?

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Learning Extension

Read this story on reapportionment in the Economist.

Action Extension

The United States Congress has oversees the U.S. Census Bureau. Contact your U.S.  Representative and tell them whether you think there should be a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. Share your results in class.