During a year in which our nation has taken a closer look at how one's race and ethnicity directly impacts our fellow Americans' lives, this independent research project was undertaken to more closely examine whether the people we elect to represent us in our state legislative branches accurately represent the communities in which they were elected to represent. We are proud to present our findings. The data shows that while our country has made significant improvements in improving the diversity within our nation’s upper and lower state legislative chambers, there is still much room for growth (especially with respect to women and Hispanic representation).
This project is an entirely independent research project. The authors were not compensated for their work on this project by any individual or entity.
State Legislator information (e.g., party affiliation, email addresses, phone numbers, and legislator headshots) were collected between August and September 2020 from the following publicly available sources:
To determine the race and ethnicity of state legislators, the authors relied on a combination of sources:
Only one race / ethnicity was assigned to a legislator. Therefore, the total number of legislators representing each race and ethnicity nationally may not match the official number provided by its respective caucus. Additionally, the race and ethnicity assigned to each legislator was determined using the official definitions provided by the U.S. Census Bureau.1 Using these definitions, for example, a legislator who immigrated or listed ancestral ties to countries located in the Middle East or North Africa would have been assigned a race of White.
District residential information was determined using “Demographic and Housing Estimates” (Table DP05) from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey.
Finally, voter registration data was collected from governing bodies which maintain each state’s voter rolls. For instance, Pennsylvania’s 2018 voter registration data was collected using publicly available data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of State.2
The denominator used to calculate the percentage of registered voters in each state is based on a point estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau ("citizens of voting age" in the American Community Survey). In some cases, this estimate from the Census Bureau is less than the registered voter total in a district (reported by state election authorities). As a result, it may appear that some districts have over 100 percent of their eligible voters registered. This is possibly reflective of a discrepancy in the data collection and tabulation methods of Census and the states' elections authorities. The exact cause cannot be determined using this data alone.