Why Does The Average Of Every Congress Member Look So White?

 @ericbrownzzz
on January 29 2014 3:55 PM
CongressAverage
An average of all 535 voting members of Congress Matthew Skomarovsky / Twitter

For decades, the United States has been an increasingly diverse country. Women and minorities have more power than ever in American business, politics and entertainment. So why does this average of 535 members of Congress look exactly like a white man?

First posted to Twitter by Matthew Skomarovsky, the above image digitally combines the images of all 535 voting members of Congress (non-Washington D.C. and territory members of the House and Senate) into an average. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the average Congress member looks a lot like a white man.

The image is part of a collaboration between artist Rebecca Lieberman and Skomarovsky, originating from Lieberman's "visually similar imgs," which uses imagery from glitches in Google's image search. In actuality, it uses photo actually 813 photos of the Congress members to create the average. Skomarovsky hasn't yet sorted through all of them to see which are repeats, but the results look pretty accurate all the same.

To understand why, let’s break down the 113th Congress and see exactly why the average Congress member looks so much like a white man.

While the current Congress is the most diverse in the nation’s history, it still doesn’t exactly reflect America’s demographics. For starters, of the 316 million Americans, 50.8 percent are female, according to the Census Bureau. Congress, however, boasts only 101 women, 20 in the Senate and 81 in the House. That amounts to just 19 percent of Congress members. Things only get worse from here in terms of diversity.

African-Americans make up 13 percent of the population but hold only 45 seats, or 8 percent, in Congress. Of those 43, only 13 are women, or just 2 percent of legislators. 37 members of Congress claim Hispanic or Latino heritage, 7 percent of Congress, compared to the nation’s increasing 17 percent Hispanic makeup. Just nine Congress members are Hispanic women, making up 1.5 percent of legislators. While Asian and Pacific Islander Americans make up 5 percent of the population, they make up only 2.5 percent of Congress members with 13 legislators (including two house members who also share African American and Hispanic heritage, respectively. These members are counted twice). Two Native American women account for less than 1 percent of Congress members.

Of all the women in Congress, an overwhelming 79 percent are white. While all women and minorities suffer from a lack of representation in Congress, women of color suffer the most.

If congressional representation more accurately reflected the population, Congress would have 272 female members, 70 black members, 90 Hispanic members, 28 Asian or Pacific Islander members, and 6 Native American members. 

In America today, non-Hispanic white men make up approximately 31 percent of the nation. In Washington, however, 369 non-Hispanic white men hold office in Congress, making up 68 percent of all legislators. To summarize, while white men make up only a fraction of the United States’ population, they comprise a majority -- a supermajority if they were to all vote together -- of its legislators.

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