The North Carolina legislature doesn't look much like North Carolina— but that is slowly changing
Methodology note: Though there was a more recent census, data from the 2000 census were used for purposes of these comparisons. This is due to the fact that demographic data from 2010 and more recent estimates are only available as percentages, thus leaving out some smaller populations. Census data compiled for NC LINC and used for this blog can be found here. 2010 census data and more recent population estimates can be found here.
We are one year out from a new census and just one month past an election that saw an increase in candidates of color and female candidates. Using census information from 2000 and updated estimates, we’ve compiled some comparison graphs to see how diverse the General Assembly is compared to the population of the state.
As of 2000, the population of the state of North Carolina was 8,049,313. The latest population estimate from 2017 indicates that the state grew by a little over two million people over 17 years.
Census data show that NC is 51.02 percent women and 48.99 percent men. However, only 37.01 percent of the state’s population is both female AND eligible to run for office (aged 21 and over), while only 34.21 percent of the population is both male and eligible—a smaller percentage, but the proportions are roughly the same.
There are more women eligible to run for office in the state, so, in theory, NC’s elected officials should reflect that; however, that is not the case in both the NC House of Representatives and Senate.
During the 2019-20 legislative session the NC House will be 71.67 percent men and 28.33 percent women. Those numbers have changed since 2016, with male representation dropping from 77 percent and the number of women increasing from 23 percent.
As of the 2018 election, the NC Senate will be 82 percent men and 18 percent women. Those numbers have changed from 2016, with women Senators dropping from 26 percent and men increasing from 74 percent. The decrease in women Senators occurred solely on the Republican side.
The racial demography of the General Assembly is also disparate from statewide trends.
Keeping in mind that minorities are statistically underreported during official population counts, according to this data, North Carolina is roughly 72.11 percent white, 21.59 percent Black/African-American, 1.4 percent Asian, 1.2 percent American Indian/Alaska Native, 4.7 percent Hispanic/Latinx, and 0.05 percent Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander.
Only three of these racial identities are represented in the North Carolina House: white, Black/African-American, and American Indian. Following the 2018 election, 77 percent of the NC House will be white, 22 percent Black, and 1 percent American Indian.
Only four racial identities are represented in the North Carolina Senate: white, Black/African-American, Asian, and two or more/other. Following the 2018 election, 74 percent of the Senate will be white, 20 percent Black/African-American, 4 percent Asian, and 2 percent two or more/other.
Though there were shifts toward better representation of NC’s population by its elected officials, there is still a lot of room to grow. For example, according to 2017 US Census Bureau estimates, Hispanic/Latinx people make up 9.5 percent of NC’s population, but there are no NCGA members who identify as Hispanic or Latinx. White people are still overrepresented in the state legislature as they occupy only 63.1 percent of the state’s population, per 2017 estimates, but more than 70 percent of both legislative bodies.