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June 24 — Country Cousins or
City Lights?

[Charlie Chaplin made the movie, but Liza Minnelli sang the song.]

Erika had her last "Loretta" lesson yesterday. Those of you who know me know I teach even more than I cook, and I'm an Italian! I was taking a break from some work that I HAD to finish today, because Erika's taking a three-month leave of absence to work in Yellowstone for the summer. But New York was running a live feed from the Senate floor, and we're waiting for the vote on the same-sex marriage bill, so I was a bit distracted.

Erika said, "but New York is so liberal," and I launched into a lecture about rural and urban apportionment of legislators from the birth of our nation to the present. For those of you not familiar with the lesson, it goes something like this:

  • Most of the population of the United States lives in a very small portion of its land.
  • Much of the voting representation is apportioned by land mass rather than population.
  • Even when it's apportioned by population, cities lose. For instance:
    • The New York State Constitution does not count "aliens" in apportioning representatives. Imagine what that does to the biggest port of immigration in the United States.
    • A city or town cannot be divided in its representatives even if it has fewer than the required "equal" number of citizens; so cities of 200,000 may get the same vote as sections of Manhattan with 350,000.
  • In addition, many states apportion their representatives by some combination of acreage and population. In those states, the rural areas ALWAYS get a larger share of the vote.
Some of this disparity was intentional. After the Revolution, states were formed by the new government. Cities had, by and large, been created by grants from the Crown. So the cities were distrusted as bastions of British sympathizers (a/k/a/ Tories). Other disparities, although equally intentional, were based on the very real differences in concerns between rural and urban residents. Those non-represented "aliens" just don't seem to understand the importance of maintaining skiing areas in the Catskills, and those farmers in Greene County don't seem to understand the importance of an influx of aliens to eat the vegetables they grow.

Then, being who I am, I said, "Here, let me show you."

Four hours later we had an approximate distribution of population by state and by rural or urban. Note that word "approximate."

  • Our first problem was that no one lived in New Jersey, and more people lived in the New York MSA (Metropolitan Service Area) than in the state of New York!
    • We were able to solve this problem by fudging a bit. We put Newark, Hoboken, and the rest of North Jersey back into New Jersey and subtracted them from New York, and we took Camden and South Jersey out of Philadelphia as well.
    • We don't want to break the news to Vice-President Biden, but no state seems to own Wilmington.
  • Some cities were jointly claimed; St. Louis, Kansas City, Omaha, Cincinnati have metro areas that crossed state lines. We left them in their more famous state; we figured if we took both KC and St. Lou out of Missouri, it would have no one left at all!
  • We could have added a few more metro areas to California, Florida, and Pennsylvania, but we drew the line at six.
  • We also drew the line defining "urban" at 300,000. This number is entirely arbitrary. I have a client who lives in Bremerton, WA, population 300,000 and he says it's definitely not a city.

We also acknowledge the inaccuracy of all census data. Undocumented residents, people moving around during data-collection times, changing populations all affect these numbers. I could have sworn that Gary Indiana and Carson City Nevada were cities, and I was right; they used to be, but not anymore.

So, given all that collection of caveats and provisos, here's what we learned:

State Pop Cities # of Cities Urban % urban
Alabama 4.7 Birmingham, Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile 3 2.3 49%
Alaska 0.7 Anchorage 1 0.4 57%
Arizona 6.6 Phoenix, Tucson 2 5.2 79%
Arkansas 2.9 Fayetteville, Little Rock 2 1.2 41%
California 37.0 Los Angeles,San Fran, San Diego, San Francisco, Inland Empire 10 33.6 91%
Colorado 5.0 Denver, Colorado Springs 2 3.1 62%
Connecticut 3.5 Hartford, Bridgeport, New Haven 3 3.0 86%
Delaware 0.9 none 0 0.0 0%
District of Columbia 0.6 itself 1 0.6 100%
Florida 18.6 Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Ft. Myers 5 12.5 67%
Georgia 9.8 Atlanta, Augusta 2 5.9 60%
Hawaii 1.3 Honolulu 1 1.0 77%
Idaho 1.5 Boise 1 0.6 40%
Illinois 12.9 Chicago 1 9.5 74%
Indiana 6.4 Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne, Evanston 3 2.6 41%
Iowa 3.0 Des Moines 1 0.6 20%
Kansas 2.8 Wichita 1 0.6 21%
Kentucky 4.3 Louisville, Lexington 2 1.8 42%
Louisiana 4.5 New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport 3 2.4 53%
Maine 1.3 Portland 1 0.5 38%
Maryland 5.7 Baltimore 1 2.7 47%
Massachusetts 6.6 Boston, Springfield 2 5.3 80%
Michigan 10.0 Detroit, Lansing, Flint 3 5.2 52%
Minnesota 5.3 Minneapolis-St. Paul 1 3.3 62%
Mississippi 3.0 Jacksonville 1 0.5 17%
Missouri 6.0 St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield 3 5.2 87%
Montana 1.0 none 0 0.0 0%
Nebraska 1.8 Omaha 1 0.9 50%
Nevada 2.6 Las Vegas, Reno 2 2.4 92%
New Hampshire 1.3 Manchester 1 0.4 31%
New Jersey 8.7 Newark, Trenton, Camden, North Jersey 4 5.2 60%
New Mexico 2.0 Albuquerque 1 0.9 45%
New York 19.6 New York, Buffalo, Rochester, Albany 4 18.1 92%
North Carolina 9.4 Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Winston-Salem, Greensboro 5 4.6 49%
North Dakota 0.6 none 0 0.0 0%
Ohio 11.6 Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Toledo, Dayton 5 7.5 65%
Oklahoma 3.7 Oklahoma City, Tulsa 2 2.2 59%
Oregon 3.8 Portland, Eugene, Salem 3 3.0 79%
Pennsylvania 12.6 Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown, Harrisburg, Scranton 5 9.9 79%
Rhode Island 1.0 none 0 0.0 0%
South Carolina 4.6 Columbia, Charleston, Spartanburg 3 2.1 46%
South Dakota 0.8 Sioux City and Sioux Falls 2 0.4 50%
Tennessee 6.3 Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga 4 4.1 65%
Texas 24.8 Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso 5 16.9 68%
Utah 2.8 Salt Lake City, Ogden, Provo 3 2.2 79%
Vermont 0.6 none 0 0.0 0%
Virginia 7.9 Norfolk, Richmond 2 3.0 38%
Washington 6.7 Seattle, Spokane 2 3.9 58%
West Virginia 1.8 none 0 0.0 0%
Wisconsin 5.6 Milwaukee, Madison 2 2.2 39%
Wyoming 0.5 none 0 0.0 0%
United States 307.0   112 199.5 65%

Two-thirds of the people in the United States, 199.5 million, live in 112 cities. I thought about showing the disparity in land mass, but decided I wasn't up for that task. So I'm listing a few states where the major cities comprise less than 1% of the land mass of the state.

  • The population of New York city is about 80% of the entire state, with less than 1% of its land mass.
  • The population of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh is about 62% of the state's populace and .4% of the acreage.
  • Chicago has 74% of the state's people with less than a half per cent of its land.
  • St. Louis and Kansas City give Missouri 80% of its people and a half per cent of its land.
  • Phoenix and Tucson give 79% of Arizona's population, but only .6% of its land.
  • Atlanta has more than half of Georgia's population, but only .002 (one-fifth of one per cent) of its land.
  • The Places Rated Almanac's total reports that 379 urban areas contain 2.3% of the land mass of the United States, but 80% of its population.

So even if the cities and rural areas had equal acreage, the differences in their needs would keep the battle going. Any apportionment that favors acreage over people keeps the cities losing. And whoever says that the cities don't really represent America is looking at amber waves of grain, not at huddled masses yearning to breathe free.

So why does this matter to you?

  • If you're a senatorial wanna-be, you should be thinking about this great divide in your voters' concerns.
  • If you're an appellate lawyer, you should be thinking about the issues your state or federal Supreme Court need to consider in making policy.
  • If you want to be "just a plain lawyer" you might need to consider these issues in helping a client buy a house or build a factory.
  • And if you're a law school applicant, you might wonder how legislative apportionments affect the quality of your school.

In fact, our next admissions officer interview will be about the importance and cost of maintaining top-notch facilities. If you want a nudge when that post goes up, join us on facebook.

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