Who Are Americans? Interactive Exercises

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Who Are the Members of Congress?

Although the number of women, African Americas, and Latinos in Congress has increased in recent decades, Congress is still much less diverse than the American population. Members of Congress are predominantly male, white, Protestant, and most commonly come from a professional and educational background as lawyers. However, the 111th Congress reflects more religious diversity than in the past. Today, two Buddhists, two Muslims, and three Unitarians hold seats in Congress. The data in this exercise compare the 111th Congress, which took office in 2009, with the U.S. population as a whole.

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1a. What is the percentage of women in the U.S. population?
1b.
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What is the percentage of women in the U.S. House of Representatives?
1c.
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What is the percentage of women in the U.S. Senate?
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2a.
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Where is the percentage of whites greater, in the U.S. population or in Congress?
2b.
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What is the percentage of blacks in the U.S. population?
2c.
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What is the percentage of blacks in the U.S. House of Representatives?
2d.
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What is the percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. population?
2e.
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What is the percentage of Hispanics in the U.S. House of Representatives?
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3.
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How does Congress compare to the US population in terms of religion?
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4.
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How does Congress compare to the US population in terms of education?
5a.
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Visit http://www.house.gov/ to look up your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. (You may need your ZIP code+4. If you do not know that information, you can look it up at http://zip4.usps.com/zip4/welcome.jsp.) Visit your representative’s website. How similar is your representative’s background to yours? How closely do his or her policy positions, expressed on his or her website, match your own?
5b.
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Now find your senators at http://senate.gov/. Visit your senators’ websites. How similar are their backgrounds to yours? How closely do their policy positions, expressed on their websites, match your own?
6.
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Does it matter if the backgrounds of the members of Congress reflect the population as a whole? Can members still represent their constituents effectively if they do not come from similar backgrounds?

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