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Research: About 1 in 5 Michigan Lawmakers are Female

At the Michigan State Capitol, 21 percent of lawmakers are female. (Nikopoley/Wikimedia Commons)
At the Michigan State Capitol, 21 percent of lawmakers are female. (Nikopoley/Wikimedia Commons)

December 10, 2015

LANSING, Mich. – A government "of the people, by the people."

New research says that portion of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address rings only somewhat true at Michigan's State House.

A new series from the Pew Charitable Trusts' Stateline project examines the demographics of state legislatures.

When it comes to gender, Stateline editor Jeffrey Stinson says nationally, the percentage of female state lawmakers has increased from the 1970s, when it was just 5 percent. But it has stalled over the last decade.

"Women now only have about 25 percent – now that's far greater than it was 50 years ago,” Stinson states. “But it's plateaued even as the percent of women in population has grown."

In Lansing, women hold 21 percent of the seats. The Stateline research also found that nationally, one in three Democratic state legislators is a woman, and one in five Republican state lawmakers is female.

When looking at occupations, the data shows people in business dominate most state legislatures. And Stinson says over the past decade, there's been a surprising decline in the number of attorneys in office.

"Now, whether that's good or bad probably depends on what one thinks of lawyers – whether you want people who are law-trained making your laws, or whether you think that lawyers will sit there and bog things down," Stinson states.

The Pew findings indicate the educational level of state lawmakers is higher than the general population, which Stinson says isn’t surprising.

"You may well want somebody smarter than you or more educated than you,” he says. “But by the same token, we are a democracy and in many ways, we want people who are like us to represent us."

Stinson adds that state legislatures tend to skew older, with baby boomers comprising more than half of seats in statehouses.

Reach Stinson at 202-552-2000. The series:

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI