U.S. Governors: When representative government isn’t representative

I’ll be a bit annoying here and quote Wikipedia:

Representative democracy, also known as indirect democracy or representative government, is a type of democracy founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy.


Essentially all Western democracies, including the U.S., use this representative form of government.

The question we’re asking here is: Just how representative is the representative government in the U.S.?

Today, we’re looking specifically at Governors. Ideally, to say that the state heads are representative of the U.S. population, we’d see that the percentage of Governors by race shows some similarity to the U.S. population by race as a whole.

As the table below shows, this is not the case. Around 60% of the U.S. population are non-Hispanic Whites, but 94% of the Governors in the country are White. There is only one each of Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American Governors, while where is not a single current Black state Governor (though Murial Bowser, the Governor of the District of Columbia, is Black).

This is disconcerting, as it may be hard for minority citizens to feel truly represented, when the heads of state government are very nearly all White.

The predominance of White Governors, however, may not be quite as damning as other statistics explored on this site. The reason is that there are just 50 Governors, and a single Governor per state. So there’s a reasonable argument that it may be harder to get to a true reflection of the U.S. population via Governors.

But that argument only goes so far. As of 2010, 37% of the Mississippi population was Black. Mississippi has — as far as I can find — has never had a Black Governor. The same is true of Louisiana, where 32% of the population is Black. And Georgia, where 31% of the population is Black.

U.S. Governors by race

Number %
White 47 94.0%
Hispanic 1 2.0%
Asian-American 1 2.0%
Native-American 1 2.0%
Black 0 0.0%
Total 50 100.0%
Source: Rutgers University, Center on the American Governor.

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