The more things change: Few demographic distinctions in 112th Congress

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While Americans changed the political make-up of Congress on Tuesday by painting the electoral map red, the demographic composition of the incoming 112th Congress remains quite similar to that of the previous two Congresses.

Despite this year’s rhetoric focusing on the rejection of career politicians, Roll Call’s Guide to the New Congress indicates that the number of members whose career fits the category of public service/politics is on par with past Congresses. There was, however, some decrease in their numbers.

In 2006 the House had 171 members with careers in “public service/politics,” in 2008 there were 182 and this year there will be 172. The Senate in 2006 had 31, in 2008 there were 32 and the incoming Senate will have 28.

In the same vein, the 112th will have six fewer lawyers than the 111th Congress, but lawyers will continue be the one of the most heavily represented groups in Congress. The 112th will have 52 lawyers in the Senate and 148 in the House.

The elections saw an increase in the number of legislators with business experience. In the House 182 members from the business community will try their hands at representing the people and 28 will try in the Senate. That is an overall increase from 2008 of 8 and from 2006 of 20.

The number of congressmen with military careers will remain relatively constant for the 112th Congress. In the Senate there will be one (as compared with two in 2006 and one in 2008) and in the House there will be eight (as compared with four in 2006 and six in 2008).

There will be little change in the average age of members (62-63 years old in the Senate and 56 years old in the House), nor much change in the number of women (there are now 73 in the House — four fewer than the 111th, and 15 in the Senate — two fewer than the 111th).

The racial make up of the legislature will also hardly change. Notably, with the coming retirement of Illinois Democratic Senator Roland Burris, there will be no black Senate members in the 112th Congress. The House will add two black representatives (both Republicans) for a total of 44.