What If Third-Parties Won?


This map looks at alternate scenarios where major third-party challenges actually won their presidential elections. These challenges are Ross Perot’s run in 1992, John B. Anderson in 1980, George Wallace in 1968, and Robert Lafollette in 1924. To calculate which states they would have needed to win, a “uniform swing” model was used. Basically this means that, across every state, one point would be added to the third-party candidates total and a half-point would be subtracted from each of their opponents. This would be repeated until the third-party challenger achieved the necessary number of electoral votes for a majority. Obviously this is an oversimplification of how a third-party win would occur, they may have drawn more votes from one candidate or another, and likely wouldn’t have gained ground in all states at the same rate. Nonetheless, it is a fun way to take a look at what their winning coalitions could have looked like. Let’s go through them one at a time:

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.56.09 PM.png

Perot ran in 1992 (and less successfully in 1996) as a budget-balancing businessman, who was anti-free trade and anti-immigration, but held some liberal positions on social issues and infrastructure spending. A Perot win would have required him to reach 36% of the popular vote, a 17 point increase over the 19% he actually achieved. California is the state that would ultimately put Perot over the top of 270 electoral votes. He won no states in 1992, but in this alternate scenario his coalition would be broad. He sweeps the Western US except for Hawaii and New Mexico, and scores wins in small north-east states and the industrial Midwest. His two major areas of weakness are the South (winning only Missouri and Florida), and the Mid-Atlantic states (with only a win in Delaware). The states he lost line up well with states that had large minority populations, which suggests that Perot’s coalition was largely a white coalition.

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.59.06 PM.png

John B. Anderson, a republican congressman, ran as an independent in 1980 on a moderate platform that included raising the gas tax, fiscal responsibility, and social liberalism. He only got 6.6% of the vote, and would have needed a huge 29.5% bump to get all the way up to 36.1% of the popular vote to win the electoral college in 1980. His coalition looks shockingly like the Democratic coalition of states from 2000 and 2004. The only difference between his set of states and Al Gore’s was that Gore won DC and New Mexico (but lost the electoral college due to a decrease in the number of votes held by Democratic states from 1980 to 2000). Anderson’s coalition is thus a precursor of today’s more liberal Democratic party, which ended up jettisoning states Carter won in 1980 like Georgia and West Virginia.

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 7.57.48 PM.png

George Wallace ran a populist, racist, and segregationist campaign in 1968, gathering 13.5% of the vote and winning 5 Deep South states. The South is the bedrock of his hypothetical support, with a boost of 26% points needed to get him to 39.5% of the popular vote and an electoral college win. However, to get enough electoral college votes his coalition would need to be larger than just the South, expanding into northern states with working-class voters where he was gaining popularity as part of the backlash against expanding government, busing, and fair housing. The regions most resistant to his campaign were the West and the Northeast.

Screen Shot 2016-05-28 at 8.06.47 PM.png

This one is going really far back into history. Robert Lafollette is mostly forgotten today, but the Progressive Senator ran a campaign for president in 1924 based around nationalizing the railroads and electrical utilities, banning child labor, access to credit for farmers, and strong support for unions. In reality he won onnly 16.6% of the vote and his home state of Wisconsin. Shockingly, because his support was overwhelmingly concentrated in the Western states, he would need a gain of 30 points at the national level to win the electoral college, putting his total popular vote at 46.6% in a three way race.  It would require this huge boost to allow him to carry most of the Midwest, a handful of border states, and New York.




Inequality in New York City, 1960-2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Note: The concept for this post comes from Daniel Kay Hertz, who produced several maps showing the decline of the middle-class in Chicago from 1970 to 2012. I really loved how the maps dramatized the rise of inequality in Chicago, and realized it would be interesting to basically copy that concept for other cities, such as New York. To create these maps, I used census tract data from the National Historical Geographic Information System. 

Skyrocketing inequality has become one of the defining political issues of our time. Presidential candidacies have been built on highlighting how skewed the distribution of income and wealth are in this country. But it can still be hard to understand inequality on a personal level. After all, it’s one thing to hear that the top 0.1% of Americans own as much wealth as the bottom 90%. It’s another thing to understand how that inequality has actually affected your hometown, or even your own neighborhood.

These maps illustrate the rise of economic segregation in New York City. The concept of “economic segregation” is related to income inequality, but it is not the exact same thing. Theoretically, income inequality could be rising but people could still choose to live in economically diverse neighborhoods. However, Pew Research and other researchers have found that the opposite is occurring, and that people are actually economically segregating themselves at an even faster rate than income inequality is growing. Economic segregation hasn’t gotten the same attention as growing wealth and income inequality, but in many ways it is a more personal and local phenomenon. With these maps, I hope that people can trace the evolution of their own neighborhoods, and see how areas that were once middle-class have transformed into areas that are almost exclusively populated by the very rich or the very poor.

To create these maps the median income of each census tract (which is roughly equivalent to a neighborhood) is compared to the median income of the New York area as a whole. Census tracts that are significantly poorer than the rest of the city are colored in red, those that are significantly richer are colored in green. Tracts with a median income right in the middle are colored light grey (dark grey is used for those tracts which reported no income data, usually parks or industrial areas). Thus light grey areas on the map roughly correspond to “middle-class” neighborhoods.


If you look at the animated GIF above, you can see that whereas most of New York City was colored light grey in 1960, indicating middle-class areas, by 2010 the vast majority of these areas had disappeared. In their place today are stark economic divides between neighborhoods.

Manhattan is the poster child for this change. That isn’t to say that in 1960 the island did not have any sort of economic segregation. The island had low-income neighborhoods such as Harlem, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Lower East Side, and high-income neighborhoods like the Upper West Side and Midtown. Despite the presence of these areas, around half of the census tracts in Manhattan were still middle-class. But by 2010 these middle-class areas had all but disappeared from the city, with only a few pockets remaining. Manhattan today is sharply divided between extremely rich areas where residents frequently make over 200% of the New York average, and extremely poor areas where people are often making less than 45% of the city average. Those areas that do appear as middle-class on the map are mainly located in rapidly gentrifying areas such as Hell’s Kitchen, which suggests that soon they will join the sea of green, upper-income neighborhoods.

The Bronx has also seen a huge increase in economic segregation. Whereas Manhattan today is fairly evenly divided between low-income and high-income areas, the Bronx is mostly made up of low-income areas. But it was not always this way, as in 1960 the Bronx was overwhelmingly middle-class. During the 1970s, the Bronx lost over 300,000 residents, with Howard Coswell famously remarking that “The Bronx is burning”, during the 1977 World Series.  The transition occurred quickly, with a large and very low-income area appearing in the South Bronx by 1980. However, some middle-class and upper-class neighborhoods do remain in the Bronx, especially in the northwest and northeast portions of the borough.

Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island have also seen most of their middle-class areas disappear over the past 50 years. I’m not a New York native; I’ve never been to Staten Island and I’ve only been to Queens a few times. Each of these boroughs and their neighborhoods have a unique story of growing economic segregation and inequality, driven by issues like white flight, urban decay, and gentrification. I don’t know enough about these stories to detail them in this post, but I hope others can examine the maps who have more local knowledge than me. This applies to the suburban areas outside New York City as well. I don’t know much about cities like Passaic, Paterson, and Newark, but you can see the growing inequality in these areas as well. New York City is not unique.

I would love for people to use these maps to examine the story of inequality in their own neighborhood. Most of these stories are pretty depressing, as the vast majority of neighborhoods have become more economically segregated, with only a few that became middle-class in the past half century. But these maps also give some reasons for hope. 1960 was less than 60 years ago, and in that map we can see a different vision of New York City. Obviously there were other huge issues back then, but the vast majority of people lived in middle-class and economically mixed areas. If that ideal existed once, it can exist again.

Below are large image versions of each map for you to peruse. 







Note on data: This data was taken from the NHGIS. They did not have median income data for 1960 and 1970 by census tract, so I estimated the median income based on income brackets they did include. I assumed that there was a uniform distribution of incomes within each bracket, which is obviously an oversimplification, so the data from 1960 and 1970 should be taken with a grain of salt. However, even if this method did underestimate inequality in 1960/70, there is still a large enough difference to make the growth of economic segregation clear. 

Data Source:

Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.



Average Win % for Major Professional Sports Teams by City, 1990-2015


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

City Average Championships
San Antonio 0.68 5
Green Bay 0.61 2
Oklahoma City 0.61 0
Salt Lake City 0.60 0
Portland 0.57 0
San Francisco 0.56 5
Indianapolis 0.56 1
Boston 0.55 8
Pittsburgh 0.55 5
Montreal 0.54 1
Dallas 0.53 5
Calgary 0.53 0
San Jose 0.53 0
Anaheim 0.52 2
Nashville 0.52 0
Vancouver 0.52 0
Denver 0.52 4
Philadelphia 0.52 1
Chicago 0.52 10
Buffalo 0.52 0
St Louis 0.52 3
Ottawa 0.51 0
Seattle 0.51 1
Houston 0.51 2
Raleigh 0.51 1
Baltimore 0.51 2
Los Angeles 0.51 7
New York 0.51 9
New Jersey 0.51 3
Detroit 0.50 6
Miami 0.50 5
Phoenix 0.50 1
Orlando 0.50 0
Kansas City 0.49 1
New Orleans 0.49 1
Memphis 0.49 0
Toronto 0.49 2
San Diego 0.49 0
Winnipeg 0.48 0
Minneapolis 0.48 1
Edmonton 0.48 1
Columbus 0.47 0
Cleveland 0.47 0
Washington 0.46 1
Oakland 0.46 1
Atlanta 0.46 1
Jacksonville 0.46 0
Cincinnati 0.46 1
Milwaukee 0.46 0
Sacramento 0.44 0
Hartford 0.44 0
Tampa Bay 0.43 2
Quebec City 0.43 0
Charlotte 0.41 0

Largest Native American Tribe by County


The census data used for this map was downloaded from the National Historical Geographic Information System. The ten largest tribal groupings were included in the map above, a map with more tribal groupings is at the bottom of this post.

It’s interesting to note that while Navajo are the largest Native American tribe by population, they are dwarfed in terms of geographic spread by the Cherokee, who are the second largest group by population. Because of the Trail of Tears and other Indian removals, the Cherokee population ended up spread across much of the eastern United States. Many of the tribes that lived in these eastern areas were severely reduced in population by removal, disease, war, and genocide. This left the Cherokee as the largest Native American group east of the Mississippi. The Navajo, as the largest tribe nationwide, are concentrated in a smaller area centered around the Four Corners region of the Southwest.

Map with more tribal groupings:


Data Source:

Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.


Slavery in the Northern United States, 1790-1860

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On July 4th 1827 the last slaves* in New York State became free, and the next day the Black population held a huge parade and celebration along Broadway in New York City. This was a joyous moment, but it came over half a century after the Declaration of Independence declared that “all men are created equal”, and over 25 years after New York had first passed a law mandating freedom for slaves on a gradual basis. It took years of struggle, hardship, and frustration to end the institution of slavery in New York, and this process was mirrored in most of the other Northern States. Because the Southern States fought a war to preserve slavery, the long and hard road to emancipation in the North has been overshadowed and forgotten. The map/slideshow above illustrates this process by showing the percentage of the population that were slaves from 1790 to 1860.

*75 slaves remained in bondage in rural areas of New York according to the 1830 Census, they were likely held by Southerners who until 1841 were allowed to bring slaves into New York for up to 9 months.

Slavery was difficult to end in the North because slaves made up a significant proportion of the population and were hugely important to the economy. The first U.S. census in 1790 counted 40,086 slaves in the 8 Northern States, for a total of about 2% of the population. In some important northern areas slaves made up an even more significant proportion of the population, such as in Kings County (modern-day Brooklyn) where 1 in every 3 residents was held in bondage. Every Northern state except Vermont and Massachusetts (which Maine was a part of at the time) still held slaves in 1790. Slavery in the North wasn’t limited to household servants either: archeological digs have revealed evidence that huge slaveholding plantations existed in the North as late as the beginning of the 19th century.


The map above shows the proportion of slaves for each Northern county according to the 1790 census.  The most obvious geographic pattern is the huge concentration of slavery radiating outwards from New York City, with slaves making up a significant proportion of the population in New Jersey, Upstate New York, and southern Connectdicut and Rhode Island. The only other areas with a large proportion of slaves are two pockets in southern and western Pennsylvania. Looking at the 10 Northern counties with the highest proportion of slaves, we can see that all 10 are in New York or New Jersey and most are in the area around New York City:

County (Borough) State Slave % of Population
Kings (Brooklyn) NY 32.58%
Richmond (Staten Island) NY 19.73%
Bergen NJ 18.26%
Somerset NJ 14.72%
Queens (Queens) NY 14.41%
Ulster NY 9.92%
Monmouth NJ 9.43%
Middlesex NJ 8.26%
New York (Manhattan) NY 7.17%
Suffolk NY 6.68%

The high proportion of slavery around New York City is explained by the city’s long history of importing slaves, dating back to its original founding as the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam.New Amsterdam faced a severe labor shortage within a few years of it’s founding, and began importing slaves in 1626.  Importation of slaves continued even after the British took control of the area. By 1703, 42 percent of all households in New York City owned slaves, second among American cities only to Charleston SC. After the American Revolution the tide began to turn against slavery in the area, as the Black and abolitionist communities campaigned against slavery, and as slaves increasingly rebelled by running away from their masters. Nonetheless, it still took New York and New Jersey until 1799 and 1804 respectively to pass laws instituting gradual emancipation, making them the last two Northern States to do so. Gradual emancipation moved especially slowly in New Jersey, to the point that when the Civil War broke out in 1860 there were still 18 enslaved people in the “free” state!

image (32)

Despite both New Jersey and New York dragging their feet on the issue of slavery, the institution declined consistently in the decades after Independence. The number of slaves in the Northern States decreased in every US census from 1790 to 1860. The mirror image of this trend was occurring in the South, where the number of slaves increased by an average of almost 30% a decade. Thus while the decline in the total number of slaves in the North is significant, the fall in the North’s share of all slaves is even more impressive:

image (33)

Nonetheless, while the decline of slavery in the North may seem rapid to us today, it obviously took painfully long for those in bondage at the time.

The death of slavery in the North teaches us that even the most vile of institutions take time to destroy. This applies to slavery in the South as well: the Emancipation Proclamation did not free all slaves in the United States, and even after the Thirteenth Amendment banned slavery there were still Blacks being held in near-bondage under the South’s sharecropping systems.

One last thing to realize when talking about the destruction of slavery in the North is that the role of politicians and abolitionists is often overemphasized, while the role of slaves in ending this institution is overlooked. It took a huge number of slaves running away from their masters in the 1790s to convince the New York legislature to pass a bill for gradual emancipation. After gradual emancipation was put in place, the death of slavery in New York was sped up by an “epidemic” of slaves fleeing. The likelihood that their slaves would run also encouraged slaveowners in the North to free them voluntarily. It was Dubois that pointed out that  “slaves freed themselves” during the Civil War, and this applies equally to the end of slavery in the North.

Data Source:

Minnesota Population Center. National Historical Geographic Information System: Version 2.0. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota 2011.