Just the Facts

Five Facts on Diversity in Congress

By Emma Petasis
September 26, 2018 | Blog

Congress has made impressive gains in diversity over the years.  However, minorities and women still do not enjoy proportional representation in America’s legislative body. Here are five facts on diversity in Congress:

The current Congress is the most racially diverse in the history of the United States

The 115th Congress has a record 51 African-American members, a slight increase over the previous record of 49, which was set in the 114th Congress. There are 46 African-American representatives, two non-voting delegates, and three senators.  In all, African-Americans comprise 9.4% of total membership in Congress. In addition, the current Congress also has a record 46 Hispanic or Latino members, which makes up 8.5% of total membership, with 41 serving in the House and five in the Senate. Finally, Congress has 18 members of Asian, South Asian, or Pacific Islander ancestry.  They make up 3.3% of total membership, with 15 serving in the House and three serving in the Senate. Out of all the minority members in Congress, 18 are Republicans and 97 are Democrats.

There are a record number of women in the current Congress

Congress currently has 112 female members (including five non-voting delegates in the House), which makes up 20.7% of the body’s total membership. This is the highest number of women to ever serve in the U.S. Congress and represents an increase of eight women from the previous record of 104, which was set in 2015. In all, 81 of the women in Congress are Democrats while 31 are Republicans. Women’s representation in Congress has increased every election cycle since 1979, when there were only 17 female members in the legislative branch.

Despite the historic levels of diversity in the current Congress, women and minorities still do not enjoy proportional representation in Congress

While Congress has become more diverse over the years, women and minorities still do not enjoy proportional representation.  As of July 1, 2017, 13.4% of the U.S. population was African-American, 18.1% was Hispanic or Latino, and 6% was Asian, South Asian, or Pacific Islander.  In addition, it was estimated that 50.8% of the population was female.  This means that despite increased levels of diversity in politics, African-Americans, which comprise 9.4% of Congress, are still underrepresented by 4%.

The upcoming midterms could drastically boost the number of women elected to Congress

There is a reason that 2018 has been dubbed the “year of the woman.” In the 2018 election cycle 528 women declared that they were running for the House or the Senate with 273 of them winning their party’s nomination in the primary.  This represents the highest number of women candidates to advance to a general election in American history. In fact, it dwarfs the previous record of 183, which was set in 2016.

Despite the record number of female candidates, women will still fall short of proportional representation in the House

If every single female candidate were to win, women could gain 127 seats in the House of Representatives, bringing them to a total of 211 seats, and 5 seats in the senate, bringing the total to 28 female senators.  However, in order for congressional representation to be proportional between the two sexes, women would need approximately 220 seats in the House and 51 in the Senate.  Furthermore, it is certain that not all of these women are going to win. However, the record number of candidates is expected to lead to a significant increase in female representation in Congress.


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