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83% male with an average net worth of $5 million
April 21, 2011 10:39 AM   Subscribe


 
I kept getting confused about which side was which and thinking 'Hey that actually seems pretty good!'
posted by shakespeherian at 10:45 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Summary:
Under representation of blacks, latinos, native Americans, women, and independents.

Over representation of Jewish people.
posted by The Giant Squid at 10:47 AM on April 21, 2011


Er. Well, largely over-representation of CAUCASIAN people, but... yeah.
posted by koeselitz at 10:49 AM on April 21, 2011


And Protestants.
posted by koeselitz at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2011


But hey! Buddhists are perfectly represented right now! Score!
posted by koeselitz at 10:50 AM on April 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've been toying with an idea... Congress members would be paid the average (mode) income of people in their district with very strict limitations on lobbyist gifts and interactions.
posted by drezdn at 10:51 AM on April 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


The religious graph is awful for color-blindness.
posted by odinsdream at 10:51 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


odinsdream: It's awful for everybody. The graph is just shades of green and greenish brown.
posted by zsazsa at 10:53 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The disproportionality is made a good deal stronger by the nature of the Senate, which is even more monotone than the House. And of course, there are demographic factors that are even more skewed than these, such as age, disability, education level, pre-political occupation, and criminal record (ex-cons are an oppressed minority, too). It does seem clear that people who don't "look like" the Congress are less likely to have their interests and values represented in lawmaking, but then again, Congressional districts are drawn to create majority-minority districts, and of course every district is 50:50 male:female.
posted by GentleReader at 10:53 AM on April 21, 2011


I think you mean median, drezdn.

Also talking overall demographics is all well and good but what about individual district demographics? That, I think, might be more interesting - how many predominantly hispanic districts have white male protestants in Congress?
posted by kafziel at 10:54 AM on April 21, 2011


Spoiler: It would still be mostly assholes and crazy people.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:55 AM on April 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Arithmetic fail. Most numbers are for the House and Senate combined. But the theoretical numbers for religion and gender look like they were calculated for the House only.
posted by Tsuga at 10:56 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Under representation of blacks, latinos, native Americans, women, and independents.

Race and religion are the categories that actually seem close-ish (with some order of magnitude-of-magnitude underrepresentation) to me.

The party thing... congress probably would look that way if we didn't have plurality voting.

The m/f one is the most staggeringly out of line.
posted by weston at 10:56 AM on April 21, 2011


>I've been toying with an idea... Congress members would be paid the average (mode) income of people in their district with very strict limitations on lobbyist gifts and interactions.

Holy crap - the resulting flurry of carpetbagging would make even Mary Poppins blush.
posted by m@f at 10:56 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am confused, why would the house have different numebrs of peolpe in it in the reflective scenarios? Why does the number of representatives go down to 436 in the reflective gender split scenario, and 430 in the reflective religion split?
posted by biffa at 10:57 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, what the hell? This seems like it BAD.is
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:03 AM on April 21, 2011


I'm surprised Joe Biden is so far down on the net worth list. Is he spending it all on hookers and blow?
posted by rocket88 at 11:03 AM on April 21, 2011


A more interesting chart would take into account the percentage of apathetic people by gender, ethnicity, and creed. This is a fun aggregation of facts, but what about voter turn-out? And gerrymandering?
posted by filthy light thief at 11:04 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you mean median, drezdn.

Whichever would lead to them getting paid the least. Not because what they do isn't important, but because I want them to know what life is actually like for people in their district.
posted by drezdn at 11:04 AM on April 21, 2011


Our government is so awesome we should impose it one the rest of the world so they can be awesome too!
posted by Blasdelb at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2011


biffa: “I am confused, why would the house have different numebrs of peolpe in it in the reflective scenarios? Why does the number of representatives go down to 436 in the reflective gender split scenario, and 430 in the reflective religion split?”

That's actually a good question. Also, the numbers on the current splits don't make sense, either. There are currently 435 voting members of the House. But the affiliation split adds up to 533, the gender split adds up to 539, and the race split adds up to 539. I can understand the race split being somewhat overlapping; but, er, unless I'm mistaken, there isn't any gender-overlapping in the House. And that doesn't make up for the affiliation split (which includes "other," so there shouldn't be a discrepancy.)

This chart is really weird. I have a feeling somebody's going to explain this to me, but as it is, this doesn't add up at all.
posted by koeselitz at 11:06 AM on April 21, 2011


I'm surprised Joe Biden is so far down on the net worth list.

That Trans Am costs alot to keep up.
posted by drezdn at 11:06 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Its FPTP so it should look be skewed towards the plurality - so the only thing not explained by that is why so many men compared to woman.

Ironically gerrymandering has done more to bring minorities into the house then anything else. It would be even whiter if the districts were drawn up in come formulaic way.
posted by JPD at 11:07 AM on April 21, 2011


But hey! Buddhists are perfectly represented right now! Score!

That's that Middle Way again....

I am suspicious that "Other" is so overrepresented, though.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:08 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, unless somebody can give an explanation of the myriad of weird discrepancies here, I'm going to go ahead and say this chart is bollocks. The numbers don't make any damned sense.
posted by koeselitz at 11:09 AM on April 21, 2011


Hunh. The proportional representation of race and religion actually comes out a lot better than I assumed it would.
posted by Zed at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: It looks like it's combined numbers for the house and senate. Does that help?
posted by moss at 11:15 AM on April 21, 2011


The premise assumes that Congress overall should reflect the nation overall - but I'm not sure of that. I think it might make more sense to look at it on a state-by-state level and ask if each state's delegation reflects that state's demographics.
posted by nickmark at 11:15 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best title for an infographic ever.
posted by dry white toast at 11:19 AM on April 21, 2011


Net worth of lawmakers.

Whadya know? 12 of the top 25 wealthiest lawmakers are Democrats.

But that's okay 'cause they're Democrats, right?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2011


moss: some of the figures are the combined House and Senate, some of them aren't. It's very sloppy work.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 11:21 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hunh. The proportional representation of race and religion actually comes out a lot better than I assumed it would.


that's the gerrymandering. Seriously - given its FPTP it shouldn't look like "America." It shouldn't even look like the individual states. It should look like the dominant group of voters in each districts. And that is in the US mostly White folks.
posted by JPD at 11:23 AM on April 21, 2011


For what it's worth, here are the totals for each category. Even presuming that some are for combined House + Senate and some are only for the house, it's still not consistent from category to category.

Current/Representative
Political Affiliation: 533/535
Gender: 539/436
Race : 539/565
Religion: 534/430
posted by cjelli at 11:24 AM on April 21, 2011


moss: “koeselitz: It looks like it's combined numbers for the house and senate. Does that help?”

Sort of. But some of the numbers are clearly just the House. EMRJKC94 is right.

On preview, yeah, cjelli is correct. The totals don't make any sense at all; they differ a whole lot.
posted by koeselitz at 11:26 AM on April 21, 2011


I too was surprised by how similar the numbers are.

I would be curious to know how the "should" graph would look if it only included Americans over the age of, say, 35, and who had been in the country for say, 10 years or more (ie, so that it is more reflective of the demographic from which elected officials can actually be pulled).
posted by molecicco at 11:28 AM on April 21, 2011


But that's okay 'cause they're Democrats, right?

No, it sucks that our political processes are dominated by the wealthy on all sides (because that biases the outputs of the system and makes it less representative), but as long as we don't get a comprehensive public campaign financing system, that's how it will be, and it's generally guys on the Republican side who oppose that (and who sue to get what little bit of a system we have destroyed). Although except for the more liberal Dems, there isn't much serious support for public campaign financing on that side either. (Wonder why?)
posted by saulgoodman at 11:33 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, this is really annoying. Isn't it frustrating when bad data gets turned into a sloppy-but-good-looking infographic? It frustrates the hell out of me. Everybody keeps talking as though the numbers should be trusted, but I think that's really questionable at this point. I mean, this chart clearly doesn't even correctly show the current split according to affiliation – which ought to be the simplest thing to determine, right?

For the record, though the chart says that there are

288 Republicans,
243 Democrats, and
2 Other

in the House and Senate, in point of actual fact, there are

288 Republicans,
246 Democrats, and
1 Other

in the House and Senate. (This is looking only at the counts on the Wikipedia pages for House of Representatives and Senate.) Which of course makes mathematical sense, since there are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives, and 100 + 435 = 535, and 288 + 246 + 1 = 535, as well.

Whereas, if this chart is correct, there are only 533 members of Congress. Where the other two went, I have no idea.
posted by koeselitz at 11:36 AM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The rich run the country, the super-rich own the country, and the mega-rich own the people who run the country.
posted by rocket88 at 11:37 AM on April 21, 2011


The racism here is breathtaking. I firmly believe that I can be fairly and adequately represented by the member of any gender or ethnic group in congress. I would never vote for a candidate on the basis for race, and believe it is disgraceful to expect that your congressperson or senator should be of the same ethnic group that your, or the majority of your neighbors are. If there were only one Hmong in my congressional district, and I believed that he or she was the best qualified candidate, I would vote for that Hmong -- demographics be damned. How can anyone ethically behave or expect others to behave otherwise?
posted by Faze at 11:38 AM on April 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is our childrens mathing?
posted by blue_beetle at 11:42 AM on April 21, 2011


One more odd thing -- under the "Reflective: Religion" category, there are four "Others" -- Other Christian, Other Faiths, Other, and Other (that's another Other -- there are two Others).
posted by cjelli at 11:43 AM on April 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


This leaves out the most overrepresented demographic of all: Lizard People.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:43 AM on April 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Faze is right - it is racist to point out the slight and completely acceptable imbalance between the demography of the nation and the makeup of its highest legislative bodies!
posted by Mister_A at 11:44 AM on April 21, 2011


I am disturbed that the currently incarcerated do not appear to be represented at all!
posted by Mister_A at 11:45 AM on April 21, 2011


In a land of equal opportunity, you'd expect roughly proportional representation of races at all levels. But every single time we elect a Congress, it's disproportionately white.

I doubt anyone wants to see strict proportionality somehow enforced. But to notice that the consistent disproportionality demonstrates we've got something different than equal opportunity going on is a very different thing.
posted by Zed at 11:46 AM on April 21, 2011


In a land of equal opportunity, you'd expect roughly proportional representation of races at all levels. But every single time we elect a Congress, it's disproportionately white.

No you wouldn't - because we do not have proportional representation. For the third time. Its math people.
posted by JPD at 11:48 AM on April 21, 2011


Well enlarging the graphic definately sucks in IE 7. Takes up the entire window, can't see the graphic, no scroll bars.

The Socialist Miley Cyrus Party in the USA would never let this happen.
posted by stormpooper at 11:52 AM on April 21, 2011


It should look like the dominant group of voters in each districts. And that is in the US mostly White folks

Implicit in this line of thinking is the idea that people of a given skin color/ethnicity/group identity will generally vote for other members of that group (when possible)—and consequently that members of a minority group will almost never represent a district or state where they are a minority.

That, JPD, is the entire problem. I'm not questioning your reasoning at all—and indeed that is the situation by and large in 21st century America—but this is pretty clearly racism in action. This situation is only a statistical likelihood if people vote based on candidates' race, which they sure as hell seem to.
posted by Mister_A at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2011


Mister_A: I am disturbed that the currently incarcerated do not appear to be represented at all!

In Europe we're moving towards votes for prisoners.
posted by Lleyam at 11:59 AM on April 21, 2011


My atheist assemblyman was adored by the local religious community. This pasty white son of WASPs got the first Latino elected to the city council. The hispanic community association makes him a keynote speaker at their annual festival and he has been a member of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Affairs Committee for years. At his annual beer-blast fundraiser there are several dozen people from Planned Parenthood there.

This white atheist dude has no problem representing minorities and representing them well. So not only is the math of this wonky, it is so lazily done it is insulting.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:00 PM on April 21, 2011


I'm really interested in this data, but the color-coding on the race and religious breakdowns is totally impossible!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:12 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's possible and indeed sensible to desire a congress which reflects the ethnic nature of the country WITHOUT wanting voters to vote based on race. Even if voters made decisions based on purely meritocratic measures such as university graduation, they would still be underrepresenting relatively poor ethnicities like black people. So I would like to see a society where black people are just as likely to excel in college and just as likely to be elected to congress. There is no racism involved in that.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:14 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mister_A I appreciate where you are coming from, but also implicit in it being a FPTP the post system is the fact that candidates live in the districts they come from. If the quality of candidates is evenly distributed across races, it should still be the dominant group in each municipality that sees the most winners. What ever group is the largest in a constituency is statistically most likely to produce the best candidate. And that is before you assume the ingrained biases that come along with being the dominant group in a community.

Now - I fully embrace the idea that it isn't a level playing field, and therefore the liklihood of winning is not evenly distributed, but the fact that winners are not evenly distributed is not evidence to that point.
posted by JPD at 12:18 PM on April 21, 2011


Current: 6 "Other." 0 explicitly "Unaffiliated." (I think there actually are one or two, iirc.) Reflective: 70 "Unaffiliated."

We atheists, agnostics, and unaffiliated are HUGELY underrepresented. Funny how rarely that's mentioned.

The gender gap is shameful, too. The race gap is bad, but not as bad as I'd expected.
posted by callmejay at 12:19 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Europe we're moving towards votes for prisoners.

In Canada we've has voting rights for prisoners for as long as I can remember. They even set up special voting polls in prisons.
They're still citizens, after all.
posted by rocket88 at 12:20 PM on April 21, 2011


The ratio of men to women in congress vs. the same ratio in society is striking, I'd never seen it represented like that. To me, the other discrepancies were dwarfed.
posted by 3FLryan at 12:20 PM on April 21, 2011


In Canada we've has voting rights for prisoners for as long as I can remember.

Short memory. The Supreme Court only decided that in 2002.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 12:36 PM on April 21, 2011


So I would like to see a society where black people are just as likely to excel in college and just as likely to be elected to congress.

I'm always a little shocked at the underrepresentation of Jews in national government, relative to their overrepresentation in law, the professions, corporate leadership, and other positions that frequently incubate political officeholders. What's filtering them out? Prejudice? African-Americans, on the other hand, are overrepresented in government, relative to their leadership presence in the rest of society. Why should this be? Gerrymandering? In any case, we shouldn't focus on the race or ethnicity of our representatives, but the quality of their representation. I would be thrilled if my senators (both white) or congressperson (African-American) would stand up before both houses right now and tell Barack "Three Wars" Obama to empty Guantanamo and bring the boys and girls home before any more of them get their legs blown off to no purpose. This is far more important than anyone's race, right now.
posted by Faze at 12:36 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Canada we've has voting rights for prisoners for as long as I can remember.

Short memory. The Supreme Court only decided that in 2002.


2002 sounds about right for significant memory gaps.
posted by rocket88 at 12:50 PM on April 21, 2011


Darrell Issa is at the top of the net worth list? What kind of cars is he stealing, anyway?
posted by queensissy at 12:58 PM on April 21, 2011


fazetroll goes so hard
posted by 29 at 1:01 PM on April 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


If the quality of candidates is evenly distributed across races, it should still be the dominant group in each municipality that sees the most winners. What ever group is the largest in a constituency is statistically most likely to produce the best candidate.

That's a good point, and you're right. It's singularly problematic to draw conclusions of the sort I referred to from the make-up of Congress.
posted by Zed at 1:52 PM on April 21, 2011


Whatever the mathematical inaccuracies of these graphs, identity politics in general are pernicious. If you want to go down this road then don't complain if someone says Jeffrey Dahmer would have made a better President than Barack Obama because he more accurately represents the demographics of the USA. What happened to the dream of judging people by their character, not the colour of their skin?
posted by joannemullen at 1:58 PM on April 21, 2011


This is a fun aggregation of facts, but what about voter turn-out?

I second that comment. We can all bemoan the influence of money in elections, but it is not going to get better in the wake of Citizens United (and, in all likelihood, in the wake of the upcoming decision in Arizona Free Enterprise Club vs. Bennett ).

What would help a lot is greater voter turn out. Which means paying a lot of attention not only to the usual -- voter registration and get out the vote efforts -- but also thinking about redesigning elections so that it is easier to vote. E.g. multi-day elections.
posted by bearwife at 2:05 PM on April 21, 2011


If the quality of candidates is evenly distributed across races, it should still be the dominant group in each municipality that sees the most winners.

Sure, there's no debating that point, assuming that this is just a straight up probability problem, like a lottery. Then, in a district with 5% African-American registered voters, we'd expect to see an African-American rep emerge in 5% of elections.

Now let's look at New Jersey. New Jersey, over the past few decades, has had a population that is 12 or 13% African-American. New Jersey, like other states, has 2 senators. If race did not play a role in the way people vote, we would expect non–African-Americans to win senatorial races 87 or 88% of the time. So, if race doesn't play a role in voting (that is, white people are just as likely to vote for black candidates, etc) you would expect to see an African-American winning a senate race every now and again. In fact, without other factors operating, the chance of eight consecutive senatorial races producing no African-American US senators from New Jersey is only 36%.

New Jersey has never had an African-American senator. New Jersey has never had a female senator. I think the biggest part of the under-representation is that a minority or female candidate faces major obstacles in getting the party's backing in most races. They can't get out of primaries, particularly in the case of minority candidates, if they are minorities in the state or district they want to represent.
posted by Mister_A at 2:27 PM on April 21, 2011


Er, I don't know the numbers for the House, but there are 2 independent/unaffiliated Senators. Sanders (VT) and Lieberman (CT) both caucas with the Democrats. The Wikipedia page I'm looking at for the 112th Congress confirms that (and suggestions that there are no I's in the House).
posted by maryr at 2:43 PM on April 21, 2011


Oh! And that there are 2 House currently vacant - maybe that's the missing seats in the chart? They look to be the California 36 (Jane Harmon, D, was under investigation? left ot head foundation) and New York 26 (Chris Lee, R, of Craigslist infamy).
posted by maryr at 2:48 PM on April 21, 2011


no mister_a that's not how the math works unfortunately - its not a cumulative probability. There is nothing unusual about something with a 12% chance not coming up in 40ish tries (Can't be bothered to actually tally the number of actual senatorial elections since direct election began) BTW - I don't actually think the world works like this - but I'm just making the point that probabilistically there is nothing inherently biased about a FPTP system not being representative of the electorate.

Its not identity politics, its statistics.
posted by JPD at 3:48 PM on April 21, 2011


Mister_A: Sure, there's no debating that point, assuming that this is just a straight up probability problem, like a lottery. Then, in a district with 5% African-American registered voters, we'd expect to see an African-American rep emerge in 5% of elections.

Right. It is like the lotto. In that each draw is a totally new shot at the odds completely independent from any previous shots. If you have a 1 in a million shot a winning the lotto that does not mean that if you buy tickets in the next million drawings you will be guaranteed to win. The same way slot machines are never actually due to hit just because you haven't seen they pay out.
posted by paisley henosis at 6:10 PM on April 21, 2011


This graph purports to show the deviation of our legislature's demographic from those they represent. I have serious problems with it:

1) Self-declared "R" or "D" voters are free to vote as they please. That is in fact part of our democratic system, and in fact exactly how the deviations of the legislature's R/D makeup varies from the electorates. In fact, had this graph been made 4 years ago, it would have swung the other direction. Ergo, the R/D balance of the legislature is actually more representative of the current political demographic of the citizenry than their "declared party affiliations."

2) Undeclared voters <> "other" legislators.

3) Given that point #1 above demonstrates the triviality of the largest graphics, it's notable that the actually interesting demographic disparities between the electorate and the legislature (on race, religion, and gender) are minimized (small circles) and made difficult to compare (by separation on opposite sides of the misleading R/D/other giant circles).

In short, this chart is a misleading PR piece for the Democrats; it could have been a great visual representation of the demographic makeup of our government, but the creator(s) chose to do otherwise.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:55 PM on April 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


The same way slot machines are never actually due to hit just because you haven't seen they pay out.

But if a slot machine suddenly begins paying out exclusively to one class of players--say, rich white players, for example--then it's reasonable to assume the system is biased in some way, because over time, if the odds were truly even, the real world results should converge on the same distribution pattern as statistical models would predict. In other words, if random luck alone should set the odds at 50/50, but in practice, the results consistently show odds in the range of 80/20, then it's reasonable to assume there's some kind of selection biasing or other effect that's producing results other than those that would be expected from a truly random, impartial selection process.

Granted, we can't extend the series to infinity to tell if it would eventually balance out, but if you take a statistically significant sample of the series, you should be able to calculate what the odds are over time, and if they don't appear to converge on what statistical models would predict, then there may be a problem.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:55 AM on April 22, 2011


joannemullen: “Whatever the mathematical inaccuracies of these graphs, identity politics in general are pernicious. If you want to go down this road then don't complain if someone says Jeffrey Dahmer would have made a better President than Barack Obama because he more accurately represents the demographics of the USA. What happened to the dream of judging people by their character, not the colour of their skin?”

Nobody's asking that people of one color by forcefully replaced by people of another color. People are suggesting – correctly, it turns out – that the disproportionate representation of rich white males is an indication that strong privilege still exists toward those rich white males – that is, that the disadvantaged are still disadvantaged, despite the fact that loud-mouthed racists and bigots like the KKK and the Nazis don't have a part in government. What does this mean? It means that injustice has been institutionalized. And such a situation demands that we work to fix it.

"Identity politics" is a proxy for racist privilege to assert itself against minorities. It's cute, but it is not sensible. It's a conservative canard that exists to try to convince the poor and disadvantaged that they should put up and shut up.
posted by koeselitz at 7:13 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


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