Pew Research Center accesses the demographic makeup of the newly elected Congress every two years. They consider lawmakers’ race and ethnicity, gender, age, educational background and religion. Pew also assesses how the demographic profile of Congress has changed over time and how it compares with the nation. Here’s some of what they found:
The 118th Congress achieved several demographic milestones when it was sworn in this past January. It is the most racially and ethnically diverse Congress to date, has more women lawmakers than any Congress before it, and reached a new high for lawmakers who are gay, lesbian or bisexual. Religiously, the 118th Congress remains overwhelmingly Christian, with 469 lawmakers identifying this way, but this is the lowest total since at least 2009.
These demographic changes in Congress reflect shifts that are happening in the broader nation. But as you might expect, Congress still looks quite different from the country it was elected to represent. Women account for 28% of all members of Congress, for example, but around half of the overall population. And only one member of Congress – independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – identifies as religiously unaffiliated, compared with 29% of U.S. adults who identify that way.
Pew Research Center studies the demographic composition of Congress for several reasons. One is that this research fits in with our long-term focus on demographic change in the United States. Another is that demographic shifts in Congress can have important consequences for politics and policy. New lawmakers often bring new perspectives, and their voices can be influential as Congress tackles the public’s long to-do list for the coming year and beyond.