Under the Dome

Does your legislator reflect you?

Democratic legislators hang around the House chambers while the Republicans caucus as they wait to re-convene at the N.C General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2015. Many seats in the House and Senate will have only one candidate in next year’s election.
Democratic legislators hang around the House chambers while the Republicans caucus as they wait to re-convene at the N.C General Assembly on Sept. 24, 2015. Many seats in the House and Senate will have only one candidate in next year’s election. cseward@newsobserver.com

If you think the typical state legislator is a white male baby boomer who has a graduate degree, works in the business world and is Protestant — you’re right if you live in North Carolina.

That’s not strictly the case across the country.

A recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts and the National Conference of State Legislators says only half of the nation’s 7,383 legislators match all six of those characteristics. While legislatures are less diverse than the country as a whole, the report says, they are more closely aligned than ever before.

The North Carolina General Assembly is close to mirroring the African-American population and residents’ religious beliefs, it is far apart when it comes to representation by women and those who are outside the Baby Boom generation.

Here’s a snapshot of North Carolina’s General Assembly contrasted to the demographics of the state as a whole:

▪ Ethnicity: 79 percent of the legislature is white, contrasted to 69 percent of the state’s population. African-Americans account for 20 percent of the legislature, and 21.7 percent of the state.

▪ Age: The average age of the people who live here is 46.7. In the state House, the average age is 58.6, and in the Senate 59.3.

Boomers (born 1946-1964) account for half the General Assembly but they only make up 29 percent of the state. The Silent Generation (1928-1945) has produced 23 percent of the legislature and 11 percent of the population.

Gen Xers (1965-1980) add up to 20 percent of the legislature and 29 percent of the state. Millenials (1981-1997) only represent 7 percent of the legislature and 30 percent of North Carolina. Finally, the Greatest Generation (those born before 1928 — and who are approaching their 90s) do not have seats in the legislature, and only represent 1 percent of the population.

▪ Sex: Fifty-one percent of the population is female, but only 22 percent of the legislature is comprised of women.

▪ Religion: Sixty-six percent of the state identifies itself as Protestant, while 56 percent of the legislature does. Catholics account for 9 percent of the state, and 2 percent of the legislature. In the General Assembly, 39 percent are unaffiliated.

▪ Education: Twenty-nine percent of lawmakers have bachelor’s degrees, while 19 percent of the state does. Advanced degrees are held by 41 percent of the legislature, and only 10 percent of the state.

▪ Occupation: Thirty-four percent in the legislature have business-related jobs, 18 percent are attorneys and 14 percent are retired.

Here’s the full report: http://bit.ly/1UvOYgU

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