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How Well Do Our Leaders Represent Us?

Published by USC Bedrosian Center on

by Jeremy Loudenback

Over the course of the past few decades, the country has been in the midst of a significant demographic shift, becoming more racially and ethnically diverse than ever before.

Unfortunately, the people who govern it are still overwhelmingly white and male.

Attention has frequently focused on the less-than-representative ethnic composition of the U.S. Congress, but new research funded by the Women Donors Network (WDN) suggests that the problem is not limited to the federal government.

In looking at the gender and ethnicity of more 42,000 officeholders at all levels of government across the country, the New Organizing Institute (NOI) found that women and minorities are dramatically under-represented compared with their current share of the population. To arrive at its conclusions, NOI compiled data on the gender and race of elected officials by examining leaders in office in spring 2014.

Despite making up just 31% of the American population, white men comprise 65% of all elected office holders, far away the highest percentage of any group. The composition of elected officials is also skewed by gender across the country: 71% of all elected officials are men. People of color only account for 10% of all officeholders, far below demographic statistics that suggest that they constitute at least 37% of the country’s population. All told, this results in white men having eight times as much official power as women of color.

To read more about the WDN findings, click here.


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