A category for each congressional district by density, on a spectrum from rural to urban.
The CityLab Congressional Density Index classification for all 435 U.S. House Districts. David H. Montgomery/CityLab

A new way to categorize all 435 U.S. congressional districts by their density, on a spectrum from rural to urban.


Loyal readers of CityLab, we need your help: We are looking to gather feedback on articles like these—what you like, what stands out, what you want more of. If you are interested in participating in upcoming research, please answer a few brief questions—and thank you!


Americans are increasingly divided by density, with rural areas leaning Republican and urban areas voting Democrat. But when it comes to the battle for Congress, congressional districts are tricky to categorize. Encompassing hundreds of thousands of residents each, they often contain cities, farmland, and suburbs in varying mixtures.

So CityLab came up with the Congressional Density Index: a way to classify all 435 congressional districts by their makeup of different types of neighborhoods. This isn’t just a curiosity—looking at the House through the lens of the Congressional Density Index showed that Republican difficulties in 2018 were concentrated in suburban districts long before the votes were cast.

Want to learn more? Here are some quick links:

Here’s the full list of CityLab articles using the Congressional Density Index:

CityLab released the Congressional Density Index under the open-source MIT License and Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, which means anyone is free to use it provided you attribute CityLab and maintain this open license. A number of other analysts and publications have used the Congressional Density Index to explore the 2018 election, including the following articles:

Want to go deeper?

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: A woman crosses an overpass above the 101 freeway in Los Angeles, California.
    Transportation

    Navigation Apps Changed the Politics of Traffic

    In an excerpt from the new book The Future of Transportation, CityLab’s Laura Bliss adds up the “price of anarchy” when it comes to traffic navigation apps.

  2. Three men wearing suits raise shovels full of dirt in front of an American flag.
    Equity

    How Cities and States Can Stop the Incentive Madness

    Economist Timothy Bartik explains why the public costs of tax incentives often outweigh the benefits, and describes a model business-incentive package.

  3. A view of a Harlem corner.
    Equity

    How Ronald Reagan Halted the Early Anti-Gentrification Movement

    An excerpt from Newcomers, a new book by Matthew L. Schuerman, documents the early history of the anti-gentrification and back-to-the-city movements.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. photo: Helsinki's national library
    Design

    How Helsinki Built ‘Book Heaven’

    Finland’s most ambitious library has a lofty mission, says Helsinki’s Tommi Laitio: It’s a kind of monument to the Nordic model of civic engagement.

×