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Minnesota Legislature Ranks Near Bottom in Proportional Representation of African-Americans

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Although Minnesota has the 4th highest percentage of women serving in state legislatures nationwide, the Gopher State only ranks 40th in the country in terms of proportional representation of African-Americans in St. Paul.

Out of the 201 legislators in the State House and Senate, only 2 members are black - DFLers Representative Bobby Joe Champion (58B-Minneapolis) and Representative Jeff Hayden (61B-Minneapolis).

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 Statistical Abstract (based on 2007 data), African-Americans comprise 4.5 percent of Minnesota's population. With only 1 percent representation in St. Paul, blacks are underrepresented by 3.5 percentage points relative to their population throughout the state.

Overall, 12.9 percent of the U.S. population is African-American, with 628 of 7,382 state legislative seats nationwide held by blacks (8.5 percent).

Iowa, (2.6 percent), South Dakota (1.1 percent), and North Dakota (1.0 percent) have much smaller African-American populations, and currently do not have black legislators serving any house or senate districts.

Proportional Representation of African-Americans in State Legislatures, 2009

Rank
State
% Black Population
% Black Legislators
Difference
1
California
6.7
10.8
4.1
2
Nevada
8.0
11.1
3.2
3
Illinois
15.0
17.5
2.5
4
Ohio
12.0
14.4
2.4
5
Michigan
14.3
14.9
0.5
6
Florida
15.9
16.3
0.4
7
Oregon
2.0
2.2
0.3
8
Wisconsin
6.0
6.1
0.1
9
Wyoming
1.2
1.1
-0.1
10
Vermont
0.8
0.6
-0.3
10
Nebraska
4.4
4.1
-0.3
12
Montana
0.6
0.0
-0.6
13
Idaho
0.9
0.0
-0.9
14
New Hampshire
1.2
0.2
-1.0
14
Maine
1.0
0.0
-1.0
14
Indiana
9.0
8.0
-1.0
14
North Dakota
1.0
0.0
-1.0
18
New Mexico
2.9
1.8
-1.1
18
South Dakota
1.1
0.0
-1.1
20
Utah
1.2
0.0
-1.2
21
West Virginia
3.5
2.2
-1.3
21
New York
17.4
16.0
-1.3
23
Alabama
26.5
25.0
-1.5
24
Arizona
4.0
2.2
-1.8
24
Kansas
6.1
4.2
-1.8
26
Missouri
11.5
9.6
-1.9
27
New Jersey
14.5
12.5
-2.0
28
Colorado
4.2
2.0
-2.2
29
Washington
3.6
1.4
-2.3
29
Connecticut
10.3
8.0
-2.3
31
Massachusetts
6.9
4.5
-2.4
32
Alaska
4.1
1.7
-2.5
33
Iowa
2.6
0.0
-2.6
33
Kentucky
7.7
5.1
-2.6
35
North Carolina
21.7
18.8
-2.9
35
Hawaii
2.9
0.0
-2.9
37
Texas
12.0
8.8
-3.1
38
Tennessee
16.9
13.6
-3.2
39
Pennsylvania
10.8
7.5
-3.3
40
Minnesota
4.5
1.0
-3.5
41
Rhode Island
6.3
2.7
-3.7
42
Oklahoma
7.9
4.0
-3.9
43
Arkansas
15.8
10.4
-5.4
44
Maryland
29.5
22.9
-6.6
45
South Carolina
28.7
21.8
-7.0
46
Georgia
30.0
22.5
-7.6
47
Mississippi
37.2
28.7
-8.5
48
Virginia
19.9
10.0
-9.9
49
Delaware
20.9
8.1
-12.8
50
Louisiana
31.9
18.1
-13.8
 
United States
12.9
8.5
-4.3
Source: compiled by Smart Politics with data from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 Statistical Abstract.

While African-Americans remain somewhat underrepresented in most states across the country, the nation's Latino population is underrepresented on a much larger scale. For example, African-Americans are represented in a greater percentage to their statewide population in eight states: California (+4.1), Nevada (+3.2), Illinois (+2.5), Ohio (+2.4), Michigan (+0.5), Florida (+0.4), Oregon (+0.3), and Wisconsin (+0.1). Latinos enjoy this advantage in none of the 50 states.

Moreover, African-Americans are proportionally underrepresented by 5 percentage points or more in just 9 states, while Latinos are proportionally underrepresented by this margin in more than half of the country (26 states).

All five states in the Upper Midwest, however, are not among that group, as Latinos constitute a very small percentage of the state populations in North Dakota (1.9 percent), South Dakota (2.3 percent), Minnesota (4.0 percent), Iowa (4.0 percent), and Wisconsin (4.9 percent). Still, only 3 Latinos serve in state legislatures out of the 729 seats in these states.

Overall, just 242 of the 7,382 state legislative seats nationwide are held by Latinos (3.3 percent), despite Latinos constituting 15.1 percent of the U.S. population.

Proportional Representation of Latinos in State Legislatures, 2009

Rank
State
% Latino Population
% Latino Legislators
Difference
1
New Mexico
44.4
43.8
-0.6
2
West Virginia
1.1
0.0
-1.1
3
Maine
1.2
0.0
-1.2
4
Vermont
1.3
0.0
-1.3
5
North Dakota
1.9
0.0
-1.9
6
Michigan
4.0
2.0
-2.0
7
Mississippi
2.1
0.0
-2.1
7
Montana
2.8
0.7
-2.1
9
Kentucky
2.2
0.0
-2.2
10
New Hampshire
2.5
0.2
-2.3
10
South Dakota
2.3
0.0
-2.3
12
Ohio
2.5
0.0
-2.5
12
Missouri
3.0
0.5
-2.5
14
Alabama
2.7
0.0
-2.7
14
Tennessee
3.5
0.8
-2.7
16
Minnesota
4.0
1.0
-3.0
17
Louisiana
3.2
0.0
-3.2
18
South Carolina
3.8
0.0
-3.8
19
Iowa
4.0
0.0
-4.0
20
Pennsylvania
4.5
0.4
-4.1
20
Wisconsin
4.9
0.8
-4.1
22
Maryland
6.3
2.1
-4.2
23
Indiana
5.0
0.7
-4.3
24
Delaware
6.5
1.6
-4.9
25
Wyoming
7.4
2.2
-5.1
26
Arkansas
5.3
0.0
-5.3
27
Massachusetts
8.2
2.5
-5.7
28
Alaska
5.9
0.0
-5.9
28
North Carolina
7.1
1.2
-5.9
28
Virginia
6.6
0.7
-5.9
31
Kansas
8.8
2.4
-6.4
32
Georgia
7.8
1.3
-6.5
33
Oklahoma
7.2
0.7
-6.6
34
Connecticut
11.5
4.3
-7.2
35
Washington
9.4
2.0
-7.4
36
Nebraska
7.5
0.0
-7.5
37
Utah
11.6
3.8
-7.7
38
New York
16.4
8.5
-7.9
39
Illinois
14.9
6.8
-8.2
39
Hawaii
8.2
0.0
-8.2
41
Rhode Island
11.3
2.7
-8.6
42
Idaho
9.8
1.0
-8.9
43
New Jersey
15.9
6.7
-9.2
44
Oregon
10.6
1.1
-9.5
45
Florida
20.6
9.4
-11.2
46
California
36.2
22.5
-13.7
47
Arizona
29.6
14.4
-15.2
48
Texas
36.0
20.4
-15.5
49
Colorado
19.9
3.0
-16.9
50
Nevada
25.1
7.9
-17.2
 
United States
15.1
3.3
-11.8
Source: compiled by Smart Politics with data from the National Conference of State Legislatures and the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 Statistical Abstract.

At first blush, the data might suggest it should be less difficult for racial minorities to attain proportional representation in state legislatures in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest (and throughout the country), than for women to achieve the same.

For example, if just 17 more African-Americans are elected to state legislatures in Wisconsin (+8), Iowa (+4), Minnesota (+3), South Dakota (+1), and North Daktoa (+1), then blacks will achieve proportional representation in each state.

If 21 more Latinos are elected to legislatures in Minnesota (+6), Iowa (+6), Wisconsin (+5), South Dakota (+2), and North Dakota (+2), then they will achieve proportional representation in each state.

However, for women to reach 50 percent representation in state legislatures in the region, an additional 191 females would need to be elected in North Dakota (+49), Iowa (+41), Wisconsin (+37), South Dakota (+33), and Minnesota (+31).

Female candidates, however, are not a minority population; the challenge facing racial minorities is getting elected in districts beyond those with high percentages of residents comprising their racial group.

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UPDATE: Thanks to a reader who pointed out that the data provided by the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures and the National Conference of State Legislatures at the NCSL site for the State of Wisconsin was incorrect. The Badger State has 8 African-American legislators - two in the Senate and six in the Assembly. This data has been updated in the first table above.

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2 Comments


  • Fair (proportional) representation requires a fair (proportional) voting system.

    For info: www.FairVote.org

  • I think stats for Iowa is also incorrect at least for the state house:Record number of African-Americans in the Iowa House this year with six (two new):
    * Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines
    * Rep. Deborah Berry, D-Waterloo
    * Representative-elect Kerry Burt, D-Waterloo
    * Rep. Wayne Ford, D-Des Moines
    * Rep. Helen Miller, D-Fort Dodge
    * Representative-elect Phyllis Thede, D-Davenport
    http://iowahouse.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/facts-sheet-83rdga.pdf

  • Leave a comment


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