The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

After a historic election, white men are more likely to be represented in the House by a white man

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) reacts to the results of the midterm elections at a election-night party in Washington on Nov. 6. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

We start with a bit of speculation.

Let’s assume for the sake of our calculus that every currently leading candidate in still-uncalled House races ends up winning. That means, for example, that Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah) is booted from office but Rep. Mimi Walters (R-Calif.) holds her seat. In Walters’s case, it doesn’t matter much to the demographics of the chamber, since her opponent is also a white woman. In Love’s case, it shifts the composition of the House, losing a black woman and adding (another) white man.

Overall, though, the gender shifts in the house have been in the other direction. With the assumption above, we estimate based on data compiled by DailyKos that 30 women won seats formerly held by men, with men picking up 10 seats held by women. (That includes people who didn’t seek reelection, like Rep. Kristi L. Noem (R) of South Dakota.)

The shift by race and ethnicity also moved toward a less solidly white chamber. By our count, 17 white representatives are being replaced by members of other racial or ethnic groups, including eight incoming African American legislators. Three black legislators are being replaced by white legislators, including Love and Rashida Tlaib’s victory in Michigan’s 13th District.

You would be forgiven, then, if you assumed that the number of white American men who are represented by white men in the House would have dropped since the last Congress.

You would be wrong.

We pulled demographic data from every House district, including the redrawn districts in Pennsylvania. The difference in representation is stark: Nearly 9 in 10 white Americans are represented by a white person in the House while only 10 percent of Asian Americans are. More remarkably, given that there are more women in the United States than men, only 23 percent of women are represented by women in the House, while three-quarters of men are.

As for the overlap? Fully 73 percent of white American men are represented by white men in Congress.

If Love wins her race, that drops only slightly, from 72.8 to 72.5 percent.

Remarkably, that’s a higher percentage of white men represented by white men than we saw at the beginning of the last Congress in 2017.

(We didn’t calculate the figure for white women at the beginning of the 115th Congress.)

Notice that several demographic groups saw increases in representation. Most notable is Native Americans, following the election of the first two Native American women to Congress. The density of Hispanic legislators also increased.

But that white-men figure! The percentage of whites represented by a white person in Congress fell slightly, and the percentage of men represented by men dropped even further. Despite that, the percentage of white men represented by white men went up.

Why? In part because the Republican delegation became even more heavily made up of white men. Cook Political Report estimates that the Republican caucus will go from 86 percent white men to 90 percent in the new session. The difference in diversity between the two parties is stark.

Republican districts are home to nearly 60 percent of the white men in the country, making up the bulk of that 73 percent representation by white men.

This, really, is one of the main stories of the 2018 election: The divide represented by racial and gender splits in the U.S. became sharper in the House than it was before.