By Keelin Bettridge
Have you ever wanted to know more about your representatives in the state capitol? What is their educational background? Their age? And beyond those specifics, what does the “average” American legislator look like in terms of race/ethnicity, gender, generational cohort and education?
In my experience, people might be able to name their representatives, but have a difficult time telling me anything else about them—or anything about their state’s legislature as a whole.
During my internship with the National Conference of State Legislatures, I got to dive into this fascinating topic by compiling a database of various demographic information for all 7,383 of our state legislators. This was no small task, and I spent months assembling data from multiple different sources and organizing it in a user-friendly way.
The end result: A new interactive webpage that allows users to compare demographic data from 2015—when this information was last collected—and 2020.
For each state, NCSL provides a percentage breakdown for generational cohort, race/ethnicity, level of educational attainment, party affiliation and gender. We have data on religion, too, but only for 2015—that information proved too elusive for us to include in this update.
- In Nevada, the percentage of female legislators rose from 33% in 2015 to 52% in 2020.
- In Minnesota, the percentage of Hispanic/Latino legislators in 2020 more than doubled from 2015.
- In Wyoming, the percentage of Republican legislators remained constant at 86%, but Democratic affiliation decreased as Independent affiliation increased.
And there’s so much more to discover! But do exercise caution: Data for many of the states and categories is not 100% complete, and we note this whenever applicable. Consequently, any conclusions drawn from the numbers must contend with those limitations.
We hope you’ll take some time to visit the page to see how your state has changed—or even stayed the same.
If you have any questions, please contact Mandy Zoch.
Keelin Bettridge was an intern in NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening.