November 30, 2020

Legislator Demographics

Legislator Demographics

Over the past thirty-five years, legislatures have been transformed from institutions of nearly complete homogeneity to diverse bodies that increasingly reflect the American population.

Since 1969, the number of women serving in legislatures has increased substantially from several hundred to 1,789-or 24.2 percent of the 7382 seats. About 60 percent of women legislators are Democrats, but Republican women have been closing the gap in recent elections.

The 2000 census revealed that the percentage of Americans reporting Hispanic heritage was roughly equal to the percentage of African-Americans at about 12.5 percent each. That equality is not evident in state legislatures where 8.1 percent of legislators are Black and only 2.9 percent are Latino.

Full-Time Legislators have now become the largest occupational group in legislatures with 16.4% of legislators classifying themselves as such. Previously, attorneys had been the largest occupational group but that profession has decreased substantially over the last three decades from about 25% in the mid-seventies to only about 15% today. Retired legislators make up the third largest occupational group in legislatures at approximately 12%.

The average age of a state legislator is 56 and has increased slightly in recent years as the number of retired legislators has risen.

+ 50-State Interactive Demographic Map

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

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