The Right Wing

It's 2015 and Congress Is Almost Entirely Made Up of White Christian Men

While the 114th Congress is the most diverse ever, it still doesn't look like America.

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The Washington Post is calling the 114th Congress, which begins its session today, “the most diverse” in American history, but don’t start thinking it's really diverse. It looks much like its previous incarnations, overwhelmingly white and male.

While women comprise more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, they remain under-represented in the nation’s representative body. Only one out of five members of Congress is female. Moreover, non-whites make up just 17 percent of Congress, even though they make up 37 percent of the U.S. population. It doesn’t get any better in the Senate, where again, women are only 20 percent of its members and there are only six non-whites among its 100 members.

While Congress doesn’t look like the face of America, it does look much like the face of corporate America; overwhelmingly wealthy, white, and male. Only 20 percent of corporations that responded to a Thomson-Reuters survey in late 2014 reported having a board consisting of more than 20 percent women, and almost half of corporate boards were 90 percent male or more.

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Separately, Diversity, Inc. reports that there are only six black and nine Asian CEOs (1.2  and 1.8 percent respectively) among the Fortune 500 companies. And the glass ceiling remains tough to crack for women as only 24 are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, accounting for only for 4.8 percent.

Congress also lacks religious diversity, with 92 percent of members being Christian. And in this new iteration, Congress is even more Chrisitan than it has been in years, adding nine more Christians to its ranks, while losing five Jewish, one Buddhist and one unaffiliated. member. But according to Pew Research, only 73 percent of the nation's adults identify as being affiliated with a Christian religion. More notable is that only 0.2 percent of Congress — just one member — is not affiliated with a religion, says Pew, while 20 percent of U.S. adults identify themselves as unaffiliated. Thus, those who do not espouse a religion are the most underrepresented segment of the adult public in Congress.

Part of the blame for the lack of diversity in Congress, however, might be shared by voters. A recent ABC News/Fusion poll found that just 23 percent of Americans believe having more diversity in Congress would be good for the country. A vast majority of Americans, 73 percent, said that diversity makes no difference to them whatsoever. However, when the asked specifically about women, 43 percent of the respondents said that they would like to see a higher percentage of them elected. The ABC/Fusion poll illustrates that a lack of gender and race diversity play a role in the deep political divisions in Congress.

“The gaps in nearly all cases are largest among partisan and ideological groups—so enormous and so fundamental that they seem to constitute visions of two distinctly different Americas,” said ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer.

Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.