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The Members of the 117th Congress

Written by GovPredict & Phone2Action on December 4, 2020

It’s time to start meeting with, and getting to know, the newest Members of Congress. With that in mind, the data teams at GovPredict and Phone2Action created this guide to help you prepare.

A few races are still being called, but we wanted to help you get moving as quickly as possible. Your job in government affairs is to plan your approaches to the new Congress requires getting to know them and learning where they stand on key issues. Here, then, is an introduction to 65 of them, with descriptions about age, gender, race, education, and other key demographic points.

Use this guide to help your planning process. Extended biographies will, of course, be available inside the GovPredict platform. For now, though, consider this a first step towards getting to know the Congress you’ll be working with for the next two years.

If you haven’t heard, GovPredict is now a Phone2Action company. Learn more about how we will be working together to chart a new course for technology in government affairs.

Partisan Control

The 117th Congress will have a narrower margin in the House, though it will remain under Democratic control. The House currently stands at 222 Democrats and 211 Republicans, with two races still uncalled, according to the Associated Press. The Senate currently remains in Republican hands, 50 to 48, with two runoff elections in Georgia expected to decide control of the chamber in January. 

The data shown here does not count the two uncalled races (IA-2 and NY-22), the two Senate races in Georgia, or a House race in LA-5 that is headed to a runoff election between two Republicans. That means the data represents 530 of the 535 voting members of Congress. 

Basic Demographics

There is a little more diversity in this Congress than the last, though they are still mostly white men in their 50s. Here’s a bit more detail on their makeup by age, gencer, race, and sexual orientation.

  • Age. The average age of Members is 59, compared to 60 in the last Congress. House members average 58 and Senate members average 64. The youngest member, North Carolina Republican Madison Cawthorn, is just 25.

  • Gender. Women gained a few seats, moving from 23 percent to nearly 27 percent of the voting Membership. These gains, all in the House, put them at 141 strong, compared to last term’s 126.

    Republican women in particular made large gains, growing from 13 to 27 (more than double). They still fall well short of the number of Democrat House women, who come in at 106.  

  • Race. The majority of Congress—about 75 percent—is white. Black lawmakers make up 12 percent of the House, up from 11 percent in the last Congress. Hispanic members make up about 9 percent of the House, roughly the same as the last Congress. In the Senate, Black representation remains unchanged in the 117th Congress at about 3 percent. Hispanic members make up 4 percent, up from 3 percent in the last Congress.

    There’s more to it of course. Some interesting wins this time tell interesting stories of diversity. For example, Marilyn Strickland (D-WA), Michelle Steel (R-CA), and Young Kim (R-CA) are the first Korean-American women ever elected to Congress. Yvette Herrell (R-NM) is the first Native American woman elected from the Republican party. Kaiali’i Kahele (D-HI) is only the second native Hawaiian elected in the nearly 60 years of Hawaiian statehood.

  • Sexual Orientation. According to NBC News, the 117th will have more LGBTQ members than ever before. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Mondaire Jones (D-NY) will become the first openly gay Black Members of Congress. With their election, the number of LGBTQ lawmakers grows to 11 in the 117th Congress. This number, with nine in the House and two in the Senate, is the largest in U.S. history.

College, Marriage, Kids, and Careers 

So we know where they come from, but what about career and family? These are some of the connections that you and your stakeholders can make with the Members. 

  • Religion. More than 90 percent of the incoming Congress identifies with some form of religious faith. Lawmakers practice more than three dozen religions, according to GovPredict data. The majority of Congress identifies as Protestant, across a number of denominations. Many are also practicing Catholics: 7 percent identify as Catholic and 19 percent do so as Roman Catholic. Six percent of Members identify as Jewish, and three Members are Muslim.

  • Marriage and Children. Almost 80 percent of the 117th Congress is married and virtually the same percentage has children. California Democrat Katie Porter, who has three children, is widely reported to be the only single mom in Congress. Compare this to data from the Pew Research Center, which suggests that 25 percent of all children under 18 live with a single parent.

  • Education. Three Members of the incoming Congress did not go to college Of the remaining 532, a full 23 percent went to an Ivy League school. In addition, 36 percent received a law degree.  

  • Military. Fewer than one in five Members of the 117th have served in the military. This statistics has, historically, risen and fallen over the years. While this 17 percent is slightly lower than the 116th Congress, it is markedly lower than its height back in the 1970s. Back then, around 75 percent of Congress had first-hand experience in the Armed Forces. 

The New Members

So now you know a little about the overall makeup of the 117th. Here are listings of the details for the new Members, broken out by chamber.

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