Key Point

Our region lacks diversity in our elected officials, especially by gender and race/ethnicity.

Let's Break It Down

While women make up nearly 50% of the region's population and people of color make up 12% of Nebraska's population, their representation in state and local government is roughly half of that.

In the three largest cities in the Metro (Omaha, Council Bluffs, and Bellevue), the percentage of City Council members (plus the Mayor) that includes people of color does not match the population. The same is true for representation from these respective counties in the state legislatures (except for Douglas County). And many of these governing groups don’t have a single person of color.

Women account for approximately 50% of the population in the Metro area, yet their representation in state and local government is significantly lower. In both city and state government, women are under-represented in all three of the major cities, as well as the legislative representatives from Douglas, Sarpy & Pottawattamie Counties.

Why Does It Matter

Elected officials are increasingly serving communities with diverse needs and to effectively serve their constituents, reflecting their population is important.

Government was built on the idea of representing the people it serves. The United States' population is expected to be a majority people of color by 2040, and our government and public representatives should reflect that change in order to most effectively serve its constituents.

Just as having a diverse workforce is important and can lead to better results for a company, a diverse representation within government will lead to better public policies that include the voices of all people within a community. It can bring new perspectives, skills, and ideas to the table and ultimately create a more efficient, inclusive, and innovative elective leadership.

How Do We Compare?

The lack of diversity in our local and state offices, mirrors a lack of diversity on the national government level.

Just as we see within our own local and state leadership, public leadership on a federal level does not mirror the population it represents. In the U.S. Congress, about 20% of Representatives are people of color, and 20% are female. Yet Congress represents a U.S. population made up of 38% people of color and 49% women. And according to the Diversity Gap study, just 10 percent of state governors in 2013 were either women or people of color.

A recent report from PEW has shown increasing racial and ethnic diversity in Congress— U.S. Representatives of color have steadily grown from 63 Representatives in 2001, to 106 Representatives in 2017— when looking just at Members of Congress elected in 2016, 34% were people of color, compared to only 15% of new members elected in the 2014 elections.

Data Source: U.S. Census American Community Survey 2016 5-Year Estimates Table DP05, City of Omaha, City of Council Bluffs, City of Bellevue, Nebraska & Iowa Legislature, Center for American Women & Politics

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