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By the numbers: This is not your grandfather's Republican Congress

House Speaker Paul Ryan delivers a speech during the swearing in of the 115th Congress, January 3, 2017.
Samuel Corum | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
House Speaker Paul Ryan delivers a speech during the swearing in of the 115th Congress, January 3, 2017.

The historic shift in power in the November election saw Republicans sweep all three branches of government for the first time in 16 years. But like the Republican Party itself, the makeup of the new Congress looks a lot different than it did back then.

Those changes are the subject of a recent analysis by the Pew Research Center, which has tracked the shifting demographics of the members of Congress who are now tackling contentious issues like the overhaul of immigration, taxes and the health-care system.

One of the most striking changes is the increased racial and ethnic diversity of the 115th Congress, with nonwhites now making up nearly 1 in 5 members overall and a third of incoming members.


That level of diversity, though, still lags the racial and ethnic makeup of the overall U.S. population, according to Pew researchers, who based their analysis on historical data from CQ Roll Call, the Brookings Institution, the Congressional Research Service and other sources.

While the overall U.S. population is 38 percent nonwhite, the current House is just 22 percent nonwhite. Minorities make up just 10 percent of the Senate.

The increased diversity of the new Congress is also reflected in the share of women on Capitol Hill, which has reached an all-time high. Women now hold 104 seats, or about a fifth of the 528 members — though still well below their 51 percent share of the overall population.

Now, 21 senators are women, the most in U.S. history, and in three states — California, New Hampshire and Washington — both senators are women.

Despite more than a decade of U.S. involvement in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of military veterans has fallen dramatically since peaking in the late 1960s. Only 1 in 5 members served in the military.

The new Congress is better educated than any in modern history; some 95 percent of House members and every senator have earned at least a four-year degree, continuing a steady increase over the last 70 years.

Congress remains predominantly Christian. Protestants represent 56 percent and Catholics 31 percent.