The 2006 mid-term elections were hailed as an ushering in of a new era turned against the Bush administration and politics as usual, and statistically speaking, the 110th Congress is the most diverse in US history. Yet there remains a serious disparity between the demographics of the United States population and the demographics in the Congress, which will be explored below.
Males – As of the 2006 congress, 83.7% of the Congress is male, while the percentage of males of the voting age population (18 plus) is only 48.4. If this is further evaluated to include the over-representation of white males, the figure is even more staggering: 36.3% of the voting age population are white males, yet there are 79 White Male senators making up the Senate (79%).
Older age groups (55 and older) – The average male and female age in the United States is 35.9 and 38.4 respectively compared to the average age of Congresspeople at 56 years old — 55 in the House of Representatives and 60 in the Senate. The age demographic breakdown in the United States is as following: 20-34: 20.9%; 35-44: 16%; 45-54: 13.4%; 55-64: 8.6%; rounded out by people of age 62 years and over in the US population at 14.7%. In the US Senate, 63% of the members are over 62 years old, topped off by Robert Byrd of West Virginia who is 90 years old.
The Wealthy/Educated – In the Senate, fifty-six senators hold degrees in the law, seven have MBA’s, and four have MD’s. The majority of COngress members come from upper-middle class to upper class income backgrounds, and the jobs themselves as Representatives and Senators pay $165,200 per year putting them in the top 5 percent of American household incomes, which does not reflect spouses income either (top 5% is deliniated by $157,000 per household).
On a similar note, the front-runner candidates for President in both parties (many of whom are currently serving in the Senate) had incomes that placed them in the top 1% of the population. Rudy Guiliani made 16.1 million dollars in 2006 with $45 million in assets, John Edwards $1.25 million in income and $29.5 million in assets, Barack Obama reported $938,000 in income and over 1 million dollars in assets, and possible third party candidate Michael Bloomberg has over 6.5 billion in his personal fortune.
Jews – While comprising 1.8% of the total United States population, Jews make up 7 percent of the Congress. This disproportional representation is extended higher in the Senate, where 13% of senators are Jewish.
Women – Women of voting age represent 51.6 percent of the voting age population yet are 16.3% of the Congress, putting America below the global average of 17% female representation at parliamentary level. As of 2007, the US ranks 68th in terms of women holding office in the legislature — this puts the US just above Turkmenistan, and just below El Salvador and Panama.
Latinos – Hispanics represent over 14% of the U.S. population, while their Congress representation is 3% in the Senate and about 5% in the House.
African-Americans – The Senate is 1% African American and the House is roughly 9.2% African American compared to the 12.3 percent of American population that are of Black or African-American descent
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