States of Change: Demographic Change, Representation Gaps, and Challenges to Democracy, 1980–2060

Source: Rob Griffin, William H. Frey, and Ruy Teixeira, Center for American Progress, February 17, 2017

….Historically, our political institutions have struggled to represent a society that is demographically different than its electorate. The systematic disenfranchisement of women and communities of color, for example, contributed to a public policy process that ignored and underserved large portions of the population. Functionally, they created what we will refer to as representation gaps—the difference between the percentage of voters who belong to a given group and the percentage of the whole population that belong to that same group. While an electorate that resembles the general population is no guarantee of a representative polity, we believe it creates conditions favorable to one.

Representational gaps such as these persist in modern America politics. They are obviously different in size and arise as the result of different processes, but the problems they induce are similar. Given their continued existence, the goal of this report is as follows:
– Document the representation gaps we have observed along age, education, gender, and race lines over the last several decades.
– Predict what those gaps might look like going into the future using the best available demographic projections and turnout data.
– Facilitate a conversation about the representational challenges the United States is likely to face in the coming decades and what solutions might work best to confront them.

Our analysis finds the white overrepresentation and minority underrepresentation has been a defining feature of American politics for decades. In fact, we may currently be at peak levels of both overrepresentation and underrepresentation. We also find that white overrepresentation is likely to decline in the future, as underrepresentation of Latinos and Asians declines significantly due to projected increases in citizenship among these groups. This trend will be especially noticeable in states that currently have the highest white representation gaps, such as Arizona, California, and Texas. By 2060, we expect the states with the highest white representation gaps to be interior states, such as Kansas, Utah, and Wyoming…..