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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, Assistant Research Professor and Director of Eagleton’s Youth Political Participation Program, 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

Currently, the United States Senate contains members from four different generations:

  • Millennial Generation: Post-1976
  • Generation-x: 1965-1976
  • Baby Boomer: 1946-1964
  • WWII Generation: Pre-1946

YELP follows the generational distinctions used by The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement and Zukin et. al.’s A New Engagement?: Political Participation, Civic Life, and the Changing American Citizen (2006).

The current generation, the Millennial Generation, has overtaken the Baby Boomer Generation as the largest generation.

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

Source: Pew Research Center, ‘The Whys and Hows of Generations Research’, http://www.people-press.org/2015/09/03/the-whys-and-hows-of-generations-research/

Source: Pew Research Center, ‘The Whys and Hows of Generations Research’, http://www.people-press.org/2015/09/03/the-whys-and-hows-of-generations-research/

Note: The Pew Research Center utilizes different generation distinctions than Zukin et al.:

  • Millennial Generation: Post-1980
  • Generation-X: 1965-1980
  • Baby Boomer: 1946-1964
  • WWII Generation: Pre-1946

 

Generation - Senate

Generational Breakdown in the U.S. Senate
Generation Number of Senators
Millennial Generation 1
Generation X 14
Baby Boomer 62
WWII Generation 23

 

 

  • The average age in the Senate is 62
  • The youngest member is 38 (Tom Cotton, R-AK)
  • The oldest member is 82 (Dianne Feinstein, D-CA)
  • 1 member is a Millennial (Tom Cotton)
  • There are no Young Elected Leaders in the Senate

The Baby Boomer 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 only a single member in 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?

American National Election Studies, 'Party Identification 3-Point Scale', http://www.electionstudies.org/nesguide/toptable/tab2a_2.htm

American National Election Studies, ‘Party Identification 3-Point Scale’, http://www.electionstudies.org/nesguide/toptable/tab2a_2.htm

Partisanship by Generation of the U.S. Population
Source: Pew Research Center, ‘The Whys and Hows of Generations Research’, http://www.people-press.org/2015/09/03/the-whys-and-hows-of-generations-research/

Source: Pew Research Center, ‘The Whys and Hows of Generations Research’, http://www.people-press.org/2015/09/03/the-whys-and-hows-of-generations-research/

Partisanship - Senate

Party Identification of the U.S. Senate
Party Number of Senators
Democratic 44
Republican 54
Independent 2

 

 

Partisanship by Generation of the U.S. Senate

Partisanship - Generation

Party Identification of the U.S. Senate by Generation
Democrat Republican Independent
Millennial Generation 0 1 0
Generation X 5 9 0
Baby Boomer 31 31 0
WWII Generation 8 13 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 - Population

Source: 2010 US Census Note: Calculation only includes the adult voting population (i.e. 18+); Pew utilizes different generation distinctions than Zukin et al.

Gender by Generation of the U.S. Population
Gender Gen US

Source: 2010 US Census Note: Calculation only includes the adult voting population (i.e. 18+)

Gender - Senate

Gender in the U.S. Senate
Gender Number of Senators
Men 80
Women 20

 

 

Gender by Generation of the U.S. Senate

Gender - Generation

Gender of the U.S. Senate by Generation
  Men Women
Millennial Generation 1 0
Generation X 11 3
Baby Boomer 48 14
WWII Generation 20 3

 

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 20% 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?

Ethincity popSource: U.S. Census Bureau, 2010

Note: Hispanic or Latino (of any race) makes up 16.3% of the U.S. population

Ethnicity by Generation of the U.S. Population
Ethnicity Gen US

Source: Pew Research Center tabulations of the 2014 March Current Population Survey from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series (IPUMS); Note: Calculation only includes the adult voting population (i.e. 18+)

 

Ethnicity - Senate

Ethnicity in the U.S. Senate
Ethnicity Number of Members
Asian/Pacific American 1
Black/African American 2
Hispanic/Latino 3
White/Caucasian 94

 

 

Ethnicity by Generation of the U.S. Senate

Ethnicity - Generation

Ethnicity in the U.S. Senate by Generation
Black/African American White/ Caucasian Hispanic/ Latino Asian/Pacific Islander
Millennial Generation 0 1 0 0
Generation X 2 10 2 0
Baby Boomer 0 60 1 1
WWII Generation 0 23 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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