By Sandra G. León
Newly-elected members of Congress sworn in on Thursday included the most diverse demographics in history.
Among the new members of the House of Representatives are the first two Native-American women ever elected to Congress, the first two Muslim women in Congress, and the youngest woman ever elected to the House.
Also included in the new class is the first openly gay member from Kansas, the first Somali-American in Congress, and the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress.
The 2019 class also includes the most women elected to the House, totaling 100, with 35 new members and 65 incumbents having won re-election, beating the previous level of 85. There are also two additional races that are still being recounted, where all of the candidates are women, so there will eventually be two more female Congress members.
In the Senate, two new female Senators were elected, in addition to the 10 incumbent female Senators, also creating the largest class of female Senators in history, and bringing the total number of women in Congress to 126, the highest ever.
The new Congress also delivered a majority for Democrats in the House, and elevated Nancy Pelosi to the speakership again after first having served as Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011.
Pelosi was and continues to be the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House, and, as the third in the line of succession to the Presidency, is the highest-ranking female elected official in American history.
The diversity in Congress also extends to religious affiliation, or lack thereof.
Sixty three members of Congress either follow non-Christian religions or none at all. Of those, 34 members are Jewish, along with others that are Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, and 20 that declined to name any religion. Only Arizona’s new Senator, Kyrsten Sinema, said she is “unaffiliated” with any religion, but no Congress member chose the “atheist” label.
Yet, with all the new diversity among members of Congress, the nation’s leaders still do not proportionally reflect the U.S. population as a whole.
Although the U.S. is about 72.4 percent white, Congress remains 77 percent white. And although men present only 49.2 percent of the U.S., men hold 74.2 percent of congressional seats.
The statistics are even worse for young, Latino, African-American, and LGBTQX populations.
75.1 percent of Congress is older than 50 years old even though only 48.5 percent of adults are. Congress members under 35 only hold 2.5 percent of seats, but make up over 20.1 percent of the population.
Latinos represent only 6 percent in Congress, more than 10 percentage points lower than the 16.3 percent in the U.S. population. Blacks fare a little better with 9.4 percent in Congress compared to their 12.6 percent share of the population. Only 1.9 percent of members identified as LGBTQX, lower than the 4.5 percent in the U.S. population.
The overwhelming percentage of diversity,however, comes from Democratic members, not Republicans.
Republican members of Congress are 92.4 percent male, 93.6 percent white, 91.2 percent Christian, 73.9 percent over 50 years old, and 100 percent heterosexual.