Diversity in Congress? Not Compared to America

The newly seated House of Representatives can point to some important firsts -- the first woman speaker, the first Muslim in Congress, the first time so many women have been elected, and the first two Buddhists to serve.

But minority groups that historically have been underrepresented in Congress are still coming up short compared with the U.S. population.

There are 27 Hispanic members of the House, just over 6 percent. The U.S. population, however, is 14 percent Hispanic.

The trend holds for black representatives as well -- just over 9 percent of the House, but more than 13 percent of the population.

There is one Native American representative, but to accurately represent the population, the House would need six more Native American members.

Women made major gains in the midterm elections. There are now 74 in the House, but that is still just 17 percent, far short of the 51 percent of Americans who are women.

Brigitte Nacos, a Columbia University political science professor and blogger at ReflectivePundit.com, said the numbers are a product of the "winner-take-all" system in American politics, and that the recent election results represent progress.

"I think it's a good piece of news," she said. "People don't look at the race, ethnicity or religion of somebody, but whether they are qualified. And that's really what it should be."

There is one group that gets more than its share of House seats -- veterans. The U.S. Census Bureau counts 24.5 million veterans in the United States, about 8 percent of the population. But in the House, nearly a quarter of all representatives, 23 percent, served in the military.

No surprise, representatives are also richer than average Americans. The median household income in America is $44,389. House members earn $165,200.

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