I’ll be posting a summary of my experiences in India this winter soon. It’s taking longer than I expected to write everything up. Meanwhile, apropos of nothing, I spent an hour tonight procrastinating on schoolwork and ended up calculating the percentages by race and gender of people in the United States and comparing them to the percentages by race and gender of members of the US Congress.
You would think that this data would be available already calculated somewhere on the Internet, but no dice.
At the US Census website, I found the Annual Estimates of the Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2007 (and here’s the Excel spreadsheet).
I also found a document entitled Membership of the 111th Congress: A Profile (and here’s the PDF) through the Congressional Research Service (CRS). This report was generated on December 31, 2008, so it was missing information from the Congressional races whose results have been announced in the month since then. Here, I found a few updated stats.
I combined these numbers to come up with my spreadsheet (Excel).
In the total population, whites make up 66.0%, Hispanics are 15.1%, Blacks are 12.8%, APIA (Asian and Pacific Islander American) are 5.1%, and AIAN (American Indians and Alaskan Natives) are 1.2%. In Congress, whites make up 85.8%, Hispanics are 5.8%, Blacks are 7.5%, APIA are 1.7%, and AIAN are 0.2%.
Men are 49% of the total population, while women are 51%. In Congress, men are 82% and women are 18%.
These numbers show the disparity between the population of the United States and their representation in Congress. The real story is of course complicated by the racial makeup of individual states and districts, which would be a more correct comparison to make with the racial makeup of Congress. Additionally, “APIA” encompasses many different racial and ethnic groups, many of which tend to be even more underrepresented in government. As a rough tool, though, I think this is pretty good.
Methodology and Limitations:
The total population numbers broken down by race will not add up to the total population estimated in July 2007 because of the way in which the Census numbers are reported and how they must be manipulated in order for us to compare them with the Congress demographic information.
The US Census considers “Hispanic” to be an ethnicity, so people who mark themselves as Hispanic also have a separate racial identity, while the CRS reports “Hispanic” as a race (or, rather, it doesn’t differentiate between race and ethnicity). The Census also separates “Asian” and “NHPI” (Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander) into different categories. The CRS groups these together. To provide for multiracial persons, the Census allows people to check more than one race, but the CRS does not report members of Congress as multiracial. Therefore, the numbers that I took from the Census report follow these racial definitions (the values that I used are marked in pink on the second page of the spreadsheet itself):
“White” = not Hispanic; white alone
"Hispanic" = total Hispanic population
“Black” = not Hispanic; alone or in combination with other races
“APIA” (Asian and Pacific Islander American) = not Hispanic; Asian + NHPI; alone or in combination with other races
“AIAN” (American Indian and Alaskan Native) = not Hispanic; alone or in combination with other races
I calculated the number of whites in Congress by subtracting members of the other racial groups from the total membership.
Gender was more straightforward. I similarly calculated the number of men in Congress by subtracting the women from the total Congressional membership.
It should be noted that transgender and genderqueer people are basically left out of the Census process altogether. There are also no openly transgender or genderqueer members of Congress.
Here’s the spreadsheet again in Scribd: