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Day two of David Pecker testimony wraps in NY Trump trial; Supreme Court hears arguments on Idaho's near-total abortion ban; ND sees a flurry of campaigning among Native candidates; and NH lags behind other states in restricting firearms at polling sites.

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The Senate moves forward with a foreign aid package. A North Carolina judge overturns an aged law penalizing released felons. And child protection groups call a Texas immigration policy traumatic for kids.

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Wyoming needs more educators who can teach kids trade skills, a proposal to open 40-thousand acres of an Ohio forest to fracking has environmental advocates alarmed and rural communities lure bicyclists with state-of-the-art bike trail systems.

Study: Working class woefully underrepresented in state legislatures

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Thursday, March 21, 2024   

In North Dakota and all other states, the backgrounds of people serving in state legislatures largely leave out a key demographic, the working class, according to a new national study.

Researchers at Duke University and Loyola University Chicago said their study found the share of legislators across the country who have mainly held working-class jobs as adults was below 2% in 2023. In contrast, 50% of the U.S. labor force is made up of manual labor workers, the service industry and clerical or union jobs.

Eric Hansen, assistant professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago and co-author of the report, said the data represent a clear disconnect.

"There's this real sense that government and elected officials are really out of touch with the population," Hansen observed. "One of the reasons for that is because our elected officials don't really come from the same set of backgrounds that most Americans come from."

He argued boosting the ranks could restore trust and usher in more economic policies helping those with lower incomes. It is not a partisan issue, with the study noting the small percentage of existing legislators who are working class is almost equal among Democrats and Republicans.

For a rural state like North Dakota, experts said small communities have unique economic challenges, and the data show less than 1% of state lawmakers here are working class.

However, 15% do have farming backgrounds, second to only the business sector, which is at 41% in North Dakota. Meanwhile, Hansen noted the cost of campaigning is often a barrier to working-class residents who might consider running.

"It's just really hard to support yourself and campaign when you are holding a working-class job," Hansen acknowledged.

Researchers said because of the way the campaign finance system is structured, it is hard to foster solutions. But they emphasized recruiters can do their part by trying to make more connections with people who work lower-wage jobs and gauge whether they can become more involved and potentially run for a seat.


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