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The U.S. Senate

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The Young Elected Leaders Project (YELP) studies and works with young people who run for public office. At its launch in 2002, the project involved constructing a database of young elected officials, conducting a survey and convening a conference of young leaders, and issuing a report entitled Political Generation Next: America’s Young Elected Leaders. Currently, YELP is led by Dr. Elizabeth Matto, Associate Research Professor and Director of Eagleton’s Center for Youth Political Participation, with a team of undergraduate researchers.

Young Elected Leaders (YELs) are individuals, ages 35 or younger, who hold elected public office.

YELP acknowledges and thanks the Center for American Women & Politics of the Eagleton Institute of Politics for sharing data related to current elected officials.

Table of Contents
  1. Generational Breakdown of the U.S. Senate
  2. Partisanship of the U.S. Senate
  3. Gender of the U.S. Senate
  4. Ethnicity of the U.S. Senate

Generational Breakdown of the U.S. Senate
  • Millennial Generation: 1981-1998*
  • Generation X: 1965-1980
  • Baby Boom Generation: 1946-1964
  • Silent Generation: 1928-1945

* When appropriate, we include those who were born after 1998 within the “Millenial Generation” percentages (referred to as “Post-Millennial” by Pew Research Center)

YELP follows the generational distinctions used by The Pew Research Center (http://www.pewresearch.org/topics/millennials/)

The Millennial Generation has overtaken the Baby Boom Generation as the largest generation.

How does the generational breakdown of the U.S. Senate compare to that of the general population?

Generational Breakdown of the U.S. Population

Source: Pew Research Center, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/07/biggest-share-of-whites-in-u-s-are-boomers-but-for-minority-groups-its-millennials-or-younger/

  • Millennial Generation: 1981-1998*
  • Generation X: 1965-1980
  • Baby Boom Generation: 1946-1964
  • Silent Generation: 1928-1945

* When appropriate, we include those who were born after 1998 within the “Millenial Generation” percentages (referred to as “Post-Millennial” by Pew Research Center)

Generational Breakdown of the U.S. Senate

 

Generational Breakdown in the U.S. Senate
Generation Number of Senators
Millennial Generation 0
Generation X 16
Baby Boom Generation 65
Silent Generation 19
  • The average age of the Senate is 60 years old
    The youngest member is 40 years old (Tom Cotton, R-AK)
  • The oldest member is 84 years old (Dianne Feinstein, D-CA)
  • There are no Young Elected Leaders in the Senate

The Baby Boom Generation generation holds a disproportionate majority in the Senate and accounts for more than three-fifths of the entire chamber.  Millennials, despite being the largest generation in terms of population, are the least represented with no current members of the Senate.

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Partisanship of the U.S. Senate

The United States is a two-party system with the Democrats and Republicans as the two dominant parties. Currently, a plurality of the United States identifies as Democrat while Republicans and Independents comprise the remaining amount.

How does the partisanship of the U.S. Senate compare to the party affiliation of the general public?

Party Identification of the U.S. Population

Partisanship by Generation of the U.S. Population

Party Identification by Generation (US population)

Source: Pew Research Center, www.people-press.org/2016/09/13/2016-party-identification-detailed-tables/

Party Identification of the U.S. Senate (1)

Party Identification of the U.S. Senate
Party Number of Senators
Democratic 46
Republican 52
Independent/Other 2

*Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar (MN) are identified as Democratic Farmer Labor Party

  • Mary Heitkamp (ND) is identified as Democratic Nonpartisan League
Partisanship by Generation of the U.S. Senate

Party Identification by Generation (Senate) (1)

Party Identification of the U.S. Senate by Generation
Democrat Republican Independent/Other
Millennial Generation 0 0 0
Generation X 6 10 0
Baby Boom Generation  35 30 0
Silent Generation 5 12 2

As the Republican Party holds the majority of seats in the Senate, the partisanship of the chamber is not representative of the population as a whole, which leans Democratic.  Those who identify as Independent are especially underrepresented in the Senate, as Independents only hold two seats.  The partisanship of the population as a whole is not reflected in the membership of the Senate.

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Gender of the U.S. Senate

Overall, there is a negligible difference between the number of men and women within the United States. Similarly, the breakdown of gender generationally (with the exception of the WWII Generation, which has a slightly larger gap) is almost a 50/50 split.

How much does the U.S. Senate reflect a gender balance?

Gender of the U.S. Population

Source: US Census 2010

Gender by Generation of the U.S. Population

Gender of the U.S. Population by Generation

Source: US Census 2010

Gender of the U.S. Senate

Gender in the U.S. Senate
Gender Number of Senators
Men 79
Women 21
Gender by Generation of the U.S. Senate

Gender of Senate by Generation

Gender of the U.S. Senate by Generation
  Men Women
Millennial Generation 0 0
Generation X 13 3
Baby Boom Generation 48 17
Silent Generation 18 1

The U.S. Senate does not represent the nearly 50/50 population split between men and women in America.  The gender balance in the Senate is heavily skewed with men holding a strong majority of the 100 seats.  Women only account for 21% of the seats in the U.S. Senate.

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Ethnicity of the U.S. Senate

The U.S. population features many different ethnicities and the Millennial Generation, in particular, is the most ethnically diverse generation.

How much does the U.S. Senate reflect the ethnic* diversity of the United States?

Ethnicity of the U.S. Population

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010

*The US Census considers race and ethnicity as separate and distinct concepts. Therefore, this graph depicts only the racial composition of the US population. Ethnicity reflects if a person is of Hispanic origin or not.

Ethnicity by Generation of the U.S. Population

Ethnicity of the U.S. Population by Generation

Source: Pew Research Center, www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/03/19/comparing-millennials-to-other-generations/

Ethnicity of the U.S. Senate

Ethnicity in the U.S. Senate
Ethnicity Number of Members
Asian/Pacific American 3
Black/African American 2
Hispanic/Latino 4
White/Caucasian 91


Ethnicity by Generation of the U.S. Senate

Ethnicity of the U.S. Senate by Generation

Ethnicity in the U.S. Senate by Generation
Black/African American White/ Caucasian Hispanic/ Latino Asian/Pacific Islander
Millennial Generation 0 0 0 0
Generation X 2 11 2 1
Baby Boom Generation 0 61 2 2
Silent Generation 0 19 0 0

While both Whites/Caucasians are a majority ethnicity both within the U.S. population and the U.S. Senate, the other ethnic groups are disproportionately represented. The ethnic breakdown of the U.S. Senate does not reflect the ethnic diversity of the population as a whole.

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