The 117th Congress that took office in 2021 is the most diverse in U.S. history. For government relations and advocacy professionals, this can potentially open new doors for building those all-important relationships on the Hill to push your issues forward.
From better aligning your issues with the demographics of members of Congress to tailoring your messages, or finding personal connections, knowing what is the demographic makeup of Congress is a key part of the government affairs professionals’ toolkit.
With the aid of CQ and FiscalNote’s data, we took a closer look in our Demographics of the 117th Congress report, to examine their racial makeup, religious diversity, alma mater, prior occupations, and more. Here are some highlights from the report:
The demographics of the 117th Congress make it the closest one yet to a true racial representation of our country. While it is still predominantly white, other races and ethnicities have been steadily increasing over the past two decades.
One of the groups with the highest increases between the 116th Congress and the 117th is Asians with an increase of 23 percent. Though overall representation is still small at 3.18 percent.
“Policymaking is not objective, which is why it's essential that all communities are represented in the halls of Congress, federal agencies, and K street because diverse opinions and perspectives produce better solutions, period,” says Eliza Ramirez, legislative director for Congressman Tom Malinowski and vice president of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute.
For more details on the racial makeup of the 177th Congress, download the report.
Since the early 2000s women have been steadily making ground in Congress. However, the demographic breakdown of congress still shows a big gender gap with women accounting for only 26 percent of the 117th Congress versus 50.5 percent overall in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
More women in public office can help more women get a seat at the table in other areas like the government relations industry. “For a long time in government relations work, the biggest challenge is that most elected officials were not women. I hate to say, but there still is the boys club. And it's a hard nut to crack when the elected officials you're going to work with are mostly men,” says Anne Valentine, vice president of government relations at United Way of Central Indiana.
For a detailed view of women in Congress over the years, download the report.
Despite high-profile newcomers such as Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who was 29 when first elected in 2019, Congress has gotten older over the past several decades. The median age of members of the 117th Congress is 60 years old, which is much higher than the country’s median age of 38, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Different generations see certain issues differently so the overall demographic of Congress can aid or deter your efforts. Knowing the overall age of members of Congress can help you better address a larger grassroots advocacy campaign, for example.
Besides racial diversity, the religious makeup of Congress also became more varied in 2021. While Catholics are still the majority, the demographics of Congress show Methodists and Presbyterians saw the biggest gains.
Members of the 117th Congress are highly educated with 68 percent boasting advanced degrees, compared to the 13 percent of Americans who have them, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
When it comes to alma mater, D.C.-based universities take the lead but there’s also a good representation outside of the beltway that can help you break the ice and connect with key lawmakers.
For a detailed view of the alma maters of the members of Congress, download the report.
One area that has significantly decreased over the years is military service in the demographic breakdown of Congress. Only about 16 percent of the members of the 117th Congress have served in the military, which is a big decline when compared to the early ‘70s.
For a historical view of military service in Congress, download the report.
Full Member Profiles
CQ has complete, in-depth bios for all members including contracts, grants, and companies in their district/state, as well as even average interest groups ratings. Find out which members and staffers you should prioritize meeting with for the policy issues that matter to your organization.
Years in Congress
Forty percent of the 117th Congress has been at the job for more than 11 years and, while most members have had a career in public service, politics, and law, scientists and aeronautics professionals have seen gains in recent years.
Building new relationships with members of Congress is an art form, especially ones who’ve been in their jobs for so long. The upside is that the majority of Congress members haven’t reached a decade yet so you have plenty of time to consolidate your relationships. Leveraging their previous occupations can also be a ticket to connecting with key lawmakers, and don’t forget the importance of building a local government affairs strategy that can help you create advocates for your policy agenda and build good faith across the aisle to advance your legislative portfolio.
Check out the full breakdown of prior occupations of the members of the 177th Congress in our report.
About 83 percent of Congress members are married, which is quite high compared to the average marriage rate in the U.S. of, 52 percent. They also have more children than the average U.S. family.
Knowing the marital status and family composition of key lawmakers is a helpful way to better tailor your messages and time your outreach so, for example, it doesn’t collide with regular school activities if they have children.
Get the full insights about family composition of the members of Congress in our report.
Get Access to all the Data on the Demographics of Congress
Our Deep Dive into the Demographics of the 117th Congress report leverages data from our FiscalNote and CQ platforms to bring you a comprehensive look at one of the most important government bodies for public affairs and advocacy professionals like yourself. This report includes data on where representatives went to college, where they were born, their professions prior to serving, and family composition, as well as more details on the demographics outlined in this article.
Identifying constituents of members with similar biographies lets you make stronger personal connections and build relationships with specific legislators or groups of legislators. FiscalNote’s stakeholder and people datasets as well as CQ’s immense full member bios that include, contracts, grants, and companies in their district/state, as well as even average interest groups ratings, lets you take things to the next level when building a report on the likely members most aligned with your issues.
Once you’re ready to start your outreach, FiscalNote’s legislator and staffer directory, Knowlegis, has the most up to date contact information for Congress as the best deliverability rate to the Hill, and the option of building mailing lists by issue area, party, role, caucus, voting record, committee, delegation, and so on.
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