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Inequality is highest in Democratic districts

Perhaps there's a simple reason why congressional Democrats are more worried about inequality than congressional Republicans: they see more of it when they go home for the weekend.

Over at the Atlantic, Michael Zuckerman ran US Census data on inequality within congressional districts and found that the most unequal districts tend to be a deep blue. New York's Jerrold Nadler represents the country's most unequal district, followed by Pennsylvania's Chaka Fattah, and then New York's Carolyn Maloney.

The most equal district in the nation? That would be Minnesota's 6th — represented by Michele Bachmann. 218983c66

Michael Zukerman/The Atlantic

Part of this, Zuckerman writes, is driven by the simple fact of political geography: "cities have become, in general, strongholds of the Democratic Party, and cities have become, in general, hives of the most dramatic income inequality in the country."

The result is that Democratic representatives see a lot more inequality than Republican representatives. But is that really why they're more worried about it?

The way I read this data is as evidence of the overwhelming power of party. The average difference between inequality in Democratic and Republican districts is far less than the difference in inequality between particular districts represented by members of the same party. But members of the same party vote much more like each other than like members of the other party in similar districts.

For instance, Steny Hoyer, the number-two Democrat in the House, also represents the second-most economically equal district in the country. But his views on income inequality are much closer Democrat James Himes, who represents the sixth-most unequal district in the country, than to Bachmann.

The same is true among Republicans. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen represents the fifth-most unequal district in the country. But the word "inequality" doesn't even appear on her "economy" issues page. Her voting record looks much more like Bachmann than like Nadler.

As with almost everything in Washington these days, it's much easier to predict how a member of Congress will vote by knowing their party than by knowing their district.