Two Facts About PV’s State House Representation

It’s the beginning of the primary season, and also Black History Month, so I thought I would take a look at who is representing the Pioneer Valley in the state legislature. I was interested in whether state legislators are representative of the racial/ethnic makeup in the Pioneer Valley, especially the majority-minority cities of Springfield and Holyoke.

As I dug through who our legislators are, I learned two interesting facts:

  1. Our State Representatives (not so much State Senators) are pretty representative of the racial/ethnic composition of the places they represent.
  2. We only have one (!) female legislator in the entire Valley.

First the race/ethnicity of our legislators:

map comparison
Source: malegislature.gov

OK, so the vast majority of our legislators in the Pioneer Valley are white. However, from an identity politics perspective, that squares with the majority-white population of Hampshire and Hampden Counties. In those areas with a more numerous Black or Hispanic population, there are Representatives who are, well, representative.

black_hisp_comp
Left: Percent Hispanic Population; Right: Percent Black Population. Source: 2014 5-Year American Community Survey

While I was glad to see that the diversity of the Pioneer Valley has been translated, at least among our Representatives, into the State House, I was shocked that there is only one woman representing us. Women are about half of the population, and yet there is only one woman out of fifteen legislators from the Pioneer Valley.

Talk about a gender gap.

Gender_Map
Rep. Ellen Story, from Amherst (in yellow), is the only female legislator from the Pioneer Valley. Source: malegislature.gov

This is not to say that identity politics should always carry the day. We should of course vote for the best candidate. But the Civil Rights movement, Environmental Justice movement, the multiple Feminist movements – they all embrace diversity and equal representation as inherent goods.

Don’t get me wrong, Massachusetts is among the most socially progressive states in the country, which is a big reason why I live here. However, we are far from perfect. The state, like the country, is increasingly diverse; having electeds who understand that diversity is important. These maps show we still have room to improve.

 

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