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Diversity in the 113th Congress Looks Pathetic When You Plot It On a Map

The 113th Congress convened for the first time last week, and the freshman class has been billed as particularly diverse. But overall, the House of Representatives is still mostly white and mostly male.

As of the first day of the new Congress, there were 439 members of the House: 433 voting members and six non-voting delegates (two voting seats are currently empty: Illinois Democrat Jesse Jackson resigned after winning re-election in November and South Carolina Republican Tim Scott resigned on January 2 to step in to James DeMint's vacated Senate seat.) There are some stats that sound great without context — 81 are women, 42 are African-American, two are American Indian, 11 are Asian-American, and 35 are Hispanic, according to the House Press Gallery. Unfortunately that's just shy of a third of the entire House (as some members fall under more than one).

That leaves 300 members of the House that are neither African-American, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic, nor a woman. That's 68 percent of the total. (Granted, there may be other ethnic or racial minorities that these members identify with, but these are the four categories tracked by the House Press Gallery.) Nine members that identify with one of these ethnic minorities are Republican; the remaining 79 minority members are Democrats.

In other words, don't give the 113th too much credit for being diverse.

The map below charts the voting members of the House (plus the non-voting delegate from D.C.) who identify with these four minorities: Hispanic (yellow), African-American (red), American Indian (green), and Asian-American (purple). (A few notes: New Mexico Congressman Ben Luján identifies as both Hispanic and American Indian, but we've counted him on this map as Hispanic. Also, the congressional district shapefile for Rhode Island was not available at press time, but both representatives from that state are male and do not identify with any of these minority groups. When I refer to minorities, I mean only members or non-members of these four groups as identified by the House Press Gallery.)

Rob McCausland, a developer for Community Media Database, generously provided his mapping data for the 113th Congressional Districts, which he sourced individually for each state. (His original map and Google Fusion Table are here.) I then combined McCausland's data with the race and gender data compiled by the House Press Gallery.

Map data sourced from House Press Gallery; Congressional districts map layer compiled by Rob McCausland, developer for Community Media Database

The vast majority of the map is gray, indicating districts that are represented by a member who does not identify with one of these four minority groups. The geographic differences are clear. A large swath in the middle of the country has no minority representation. Conversely, all but three districts lining the Mexico-U.S. border are represented by Hispanics. Texas has several districts with African-American representatives, shown by two red clusters near Dallas and Houston.

Take a moment and zoom into some of the country's largest metro areas, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

Below are close-ups of some of the largest U.S. metro areas.

Left: New York City; Right: Los Angeles

Left: Chicago; Right: Miami - Fort Lauderdale

The office of Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi took a little bit of heat last week for doctoring a photo highlighting Democratic congresswomen to include women missing from the initial photo. Pelosi said in a press conference last Friday that the photo "was an accurate reflection of who the 61 Members, Democratic women Members of Congress are. And not only were they women, but they reflected the beautiful diversity of our country; women from every community as well as every religious faith."

This is true, to an extent. Across the entire House, there are 61 Democratic and 20 Republican congresswomen, and 30 women members are also one of these four minorities. The Democratic party has more congresswomen who identify with one of these four minorities than their Republican counterparts (28 versus two). And among the Democratic congresswomen, 46 percent identify as one of these minorities. The map below shows women in the 113th Congress within the continental U.S. with the exception of Rhode Island, as above, so non-voting members Madeleine Bordallo (GU) and Donna Christensen (VI) are not included. The remaining 79 members are shown.*

Map data sourced from House Press Gallery; Congressional districts map layer compiled by Rob McCausland, developer for Community Media Database

It's helpful to consider these numbers with the nation as a whole. As the name implies, the House of Representatives is intended to represent their constituents. In a country that is 50.8 percent women, the House of Representatives is 18.5 percent women.
 
*Correction: In an earlier version of this post, Kristi Noem (SD-AL) was incorrectly identified as a non-voting member of Congress. An earlier map also failed to include her as a "non-minority woman."

Sara Johnson is a fellow at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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