118th Congress Demographics: The People That Make Up Our Legislative Branch
A deep dive into the demographics of the members of Congress in 2023 and 2024.
With a fractured Congress and tensions high, building a personal connection through similar experiences or a connection to your organization’s demographic can go a long way with new or returning members of Congress.
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 government affairs and advocacy professionals’ toolkit.
With the aid of CQ and FiscalNote’s data, we took a closer look at our Demographics of the 118th Congress report, examining their racial makeup, religious diversity, alma mater, prior occupations, military service, marital status, and birthplace. Here are some highlights from the report:
Almost 78 percent of lawmakers in Congress are White, far outpacing the national average of about 58 percent Non-Hispanic White. However, the 118th Congress is making important strides toward a more diverse racial representation in its members.
This is especially true in the House of Representatives where almost all racial groups gained at least one member. The group with the highest increase between the 117th Congress and the 118th is Hispanics with an increase of 13.5 percent.
“We’re seeing a lot more emphasis and appreciation for diverse candidates becoming diverse members from the Republican side,” says Cristina Antelo, CEO at Ferox Strategies. She points out that the Congressional Hispanic Conference, a Republican-sponsored caucus, is growing rapidly with members from all across the U.S. “We’re seeing Republicans work together collaboratively to recruit more Latinos to Congress,” Antelo says.
Growing racial diversity in Congress is important for both political parties. “With more Latinos in Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, we’re becoming part of the conversation,” Antelo says. “It’s a way to have the Latino perspective represented at negotiating tables.”
For more details on the racial makeup of the 118th Congress, download the report.
Since the early 2000s women have been steadily making ground in Congress. However, women still account for only 28.4 percent of Congress versus 50.5 percent overall in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Democrats continue to elect more women than Republicans, but that gap is closing, says Michele Swers, professor of American Government at Georgetown University. Republicans are increasingly electing more women to Congress. “The Republican electorate was generally not as responsive to the idea that you need anyone of a particular group in Congress,” Swers says. “But leadership has more recently embraced the idea of diversity in Congress because they saw it won them some swing seats in 2020. Now they are looking to have candidates that reflect the growing diversity of the country.”
Increased female representation in Congress is crucial, Swers says. “You’re more likely to be able to identify with and carry forward the interests of a group you’re a part of because you understand those problems better,” she adds, citing examples of paid family leave, reproductive rights, and the child tax credit. “Women advocate for benefits for women, children, and families, and put in the extra effort to make sure that legislation gets passed.”
For a detailed view of women in Congress over the years, download the report.
Overall, members of Congress seem to be getting younger. The average age of the 118th Congress is 58, dropping three years from the previous Congress. The age group with the biggest gain compared to the 117th Congress was 40-49, while the 60-69 group saw the biggest losses.
Having younger women in Congress is particularly important, Swers says, and women tend to run for office later than men. “Then they have less time to get the seniority that lets you move up in Congress,” she explains.
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.
For more on the age of the 118th Congress members, download the report.
Historically, members of Congress are highly educated. But compared to the 117th Congress, the new cohort holds fewer advanced degrees with 66.7 percent total.
Harvard, Georgetown, and Yale alumni still have the highest likelihood of getting into Congress, but there’s also a good representation outside of the beltway that can help you break the ice and connect with key lawmakers.
Download the report to learn more about the education of the members of Congress.
Years in Congress
Thirty percent of members serving in the 118th Congress have been in office for more than 10 years continuously. Most members of Congress have had a prior career in public service, politics, and law. However, 17 percent of members have experience in the education field, making it the third most popular career in the new Congress.
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.
Check out a full breakdown of prior occupations of the members of the 118th Congress in our report.
Marital Status & Family Composition
A majority of members of the 118th Congress — 82.4 percent — are married. That’s much higher than the average 52 percent marriage rate among adults in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau.
While 84 percent of Congress are parents with an average of two children, there was a 1.6 percent decrease in parent members when compared to the 117th Congress. The four members of Congress with the most children are all Republican members of the House, with seven children each.
Knowing the marital status and family makeup 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.
Find out more about the family composition of members of Congress in our full report.
Get Access to all the Data on the Demographics of Congress
Our 118th Congress Demographics Report: The People That Make Up Our Legislative Branch 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.
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, let 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 more.
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