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If it takes personal association with a minority group for members of Congress to act on their behalf, perhaps an overview of the demographics of Congress can provide some insight into our political debate.

After all, Senator Rob Portman of Ohio offered one, and only one, reason for his reversal on gay marriage: His son, Will. The influential senator and former vice-presidential contender wrote in an op-ed today that Will's coming out provided him with "a more complete picture of the son we love." Obviously, Portman knew gay people before his son came out, but he told CNN that he has "had a change of heart based on a personal experience." Knowing that his son was gay offered Portman a new, immediate sense of the perspective of the gay community. It gave Portman a tangible reason to consider the issue in a new way.

Matt Yglesias at Slate calls this "the politics of narcissism."

It's a great strength of the movement for gay political equality that lots of important and influential people happen to have gay children. That obviously does change people's thinking. And good for them.

But if Portman can turn around on one issue once he realizes how it touches his family personally, shouldn't he take some time to think about he might feel about other issues that don't happen to touch him personally?

It's worth considering, then, how close the rest of Congress might be to the issues of minority groups: women, people of color, the poor, gays. Obviously, it's impossible to know without exhaustive research which members of Congress have close relationships with members of those groups, but it is equally obvious that the Congressmember's membership in one of those groups would likely do the trick.

And so, the demographics of the 113th Congress. Caveats are included where necessary, but there is a small but non-zero margin of error to these numbers. Draw what conclusions you will about Congress' priorities and political positions.


81.2 percent of Congress is male.

Data from Wikipedia, House Press Gallery.


82.4 percent of Congress is white.

Data from Wikipedia, House Press Gallery.

Sexual orientation

1.7 percent of Congress is openly gay.

Data from On Top.

Economic status

The most recent available data here is from 2011 filings, and includes members of Congress who have since left the body. Nonetheless, it offers a reasonable overview of the economic stratification of Congress.

In 2011, more than half of Congressmembers were millionaires. 13.7 percent were worth $100,000 or less.

Data from Open Secrets. Average worth (not maximum or minimum) was used.

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