January 12, 2015

114th Congress is most diverse ever

Almost one-in-five members of the House and Senate are a racial or ethnic minority, making the 114th Congress the most diverse in history. However, Congress remains disproportionately white when compared with the U.S. population, which has grown increasingly diverse in recent decades, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

114th Congress, By RaceOverall, non-whites (including blacks, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans) make up 17% of the new Congress, but that is below these groups’ 38% share of the nation’s population. This difference also exists among the newly elected members of Congress, as minorities account for 11 of 71 (15%) new members of the House and Senate. (No new senators are a racial or ethnic minority.)

Diversity among congressional members has been growing for decades. But the nation’s population has diversified more quickly. When the 107th Congress took office in 2001, minorities accounted for 12% of Congress, compared with about 31% of the nation’s population. By comparison, in 1981, 6% of Congress was minority (black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander or Native American), while in the national population about 20% were non-white.

Congress Less Diverse than U.S. PopulationAmong minority groups, the biggest growth over this time has been among Hispanics. In 2001, there were 19 Hispanics in Congress, compared with 32 today.

The increasing number of minorities in Congress is due almost entirely to membership changes in the House, where today 85 of 435 (20%) members are non-white, according to CQ Roll Call. In 2001, there were 60 minorities in the House. By comparison, in the Senate, just six of 100 senators now belong to a racial or ethnic minority group, up from three senators in 2001.

The increase in the number of minorities in the House since 2001 has largely come among newly elected Democrats, though Republicans have also made some gains. Since 2001, the number of House Democrats who are minorities increased by 18, from 56 then to 74 now. By comparison, there was an increase of seven representatives among House Republicans over the same period, rising from four then to 11 now.

But despite these non-white gains, whites account for 83% of the new Congress but just 62% of the population. This gap has widened over time. In 1981, 94% of Congress was white compared with about 80% of the U.S. population.

Another way to measure the racial and ethnic diversity of Congress is to see what share of the U.S. population is represented by House members of the same racial or ethnic group. For the current Congress, 35% of the nation’s black population is represented by a congressional representative who is black, the highest of any minority group. By comparison, 22% of Hispanics, 12% of Asians and 8% of Native Americans are represented by someone of the same racial or ethnic group.

Topics: Demographics, Congress, Race and Ethnicity

  1. Photo of Jens Manuel Krogstad

    is a writer/editor focusing on Hispanics, immigration and demographics at Pew Research Center.


  1. Jeffrey A. Pomykala1 year ago

    “Overall, non-whites (including blacks, Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders and Native Americans) make up 17% of the new Congress, but that is below these groups’ 38% share of the nation’s population.”

    You can only get that 38% share if you remove Hispanics that identify as “white” in the U.S. census, and move them over to your “minorities” side.
    Hey, if a male can believe and identify as a female ~ trapped in the opposite sexes body! ~ and vice verse, and you’re ok with that…then how DARE you take away the self-identified “race” of those Hispanics that identify as “white”. They’ve even got more reality behind them, since many have ancestry from Spain ~ You know – one of those “white” nations in Europe that once went out Empire building.

    With the percentages of representation looked at in a more realistic light, the “gap” isn’t all that terrible, and the difference could be understood to have come from the fact that many of us humans actually just vote on a candidate, and don’t care about the melanin content of their skin. Since some of us members of the human species, amongst all the “races” of this nation, look to the quality of the candidate’s character, as opposed to the melanin content of their skin, the percentages of representation will fluctuate around your demanded (and impossible) exact representation of demographics.
    What? Do you think all “white” people should vote for only white people? Do you think all “black” people should vote only for black people? How about indians? (Dot or feather).. Should they vote ONLY for someone of their “race”? That all sounds pretty racist to me.

    The difference in representation in the House of representatives compared to demographics isn’t all that bad a “gap” when looked at in a more actual light.

    As for the Senate, each state has two senators. Since most states are predominantly “white”, that’s one of the senators. Now, for the second seat, which special interest “minority” group should get it? **tapping my feet waiting** Yeah, good chance mathematically and sociologically, good chance it’ll be a “white” guy.

    We’ve come a long way, baby. Even if we have a bit of a ways to go…
    And it starts in your own heart. Do you vote for someone just because of the color of their skin?
    I prefer looking at the quality of their character, myself.

    I have a dream, too…and it includes you, if you’ll include me…and we’ll all get there together.

    “In our thirst for Freedom, let us not drink from the cup of bitterness and anger.” ~ Rev. Dr. Martion Luther King, Jr.

  2. John Smith1 year ago

    It’s a disgrace. I cannot believe the audacity of praising this fact. We should elect senators based on the merit, NOT to satisfy some useless diversity quota.

  3. Mike L.2 years ago

    How unfortunate. Diversity is the death knell of any modern society.

  4. thomas r wayne2 years ago

    There must always be balance in representation. If you are 13% of the population, you
    cannot have 20% congressional representation. This is not South Africa.

    In Germany in the 3Os the Nazis started taking power from the parties and the result
    was a country in rubble by 1945, Majority must rule or you have anarchy. AS a
    refugee from 1938, if you don’t like living here, LEAVE……

    I have one question. Why are we talking about 13% of the population ad nauseum,
    24 hours a day, day in , day out. Who is profiting by trying to lay a guilt trip on
    everyone else. Follow the money…….

  5. Carlos Munoz, Jr.3 years ago

    Please tell me how many Latino/as were in the U.S. Congress in 1968. Thank you.

  6. Jaylani Adam3 years ago

    WOW…….that’s amazing. Thanks, Pew Research. Is it possible to find out who these Congress representatives? Thanks.