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.

Wikipedia

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.
https://governors.rutgers.edu/fast-facts-about-americas-governors/

U.S. death penalty and race

Of the prisoners sentenced to death and executed in the U.S., we should expect that the percentage of those that are White and the percentage of those who are Black would be similar, if not the same, to those group’s representation in the overall U.S. population.

This is not the case.

In the U.S., 13.4% of the population is Black. In 2017, the most recent year that the Bureau of Justice offers statistics, 23 citizens were executed in the U.S. Nearly 35% (8) of them were Black. Just 23 executions is a small data set, so we want to be careful taking away too much from that one year. But if we look at the larger data set of prisoners sentenced to death, the numbers are actually even worse. Of the 2,637 prisoners awaiting a death sentence in 2017, nearly 43% of them were Black.

The data on a state-by-state basis often looks even more unequal. For example, in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Virginia, and Colorado the total number of Black inmates on death row was higher than that of White inmates.

The Black population is indeed proportionately higher in some of these states — for instance, in Georgia, roughly 33% of the population is Black. Yet, in that state, 55% of death row inmates are Black.

Proportionately higher Black populations isn’t the case in all of these states though. Pennsylvania has a Black population that is proportionately lower than the country as a whole (12% vs 13.4%), yet 52% of death row inmates are Black.

U.S. executions and death row inmates by race, 2017

# of executions % of executions # of prisoners under sentence of death % of prisoners under sentence of death
White 15 65.2% 1,508 57.2%
Black 8 34.8% 1,129 42.8%
Total 23 100.0% 2,637 100.0%
Source: Bureau of Justice, Capital Punishment, 2017: Selected Findings.
https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/cp17sf.pdf

Are Blacks killed more often by police? U.S. arrest-related deaths by race

The death of George Floyd is just one of numerous recent, high-profile deaths of Black citizens at the hands of the police. While the overall number of U.S. citizens who die in police custody, or in the process of being put into custody, is dishearteningly high, the question is whether there is a notable difference along racial lines.

On July 14, President Trump disputed this, saying that “more white people, by the way” are killed by the police.

In a sense, the President isn’t wrong. More white people are killed by the police than any other race or ethnicity. Readers of this site should by now be used to the idea that overall numbers aren’t all that important when it comes to matters of equality. We need to see that the data lines up proportionately to the overall population.

When looked at that way, there is no doubt that a significantly disproportionate number of Black citizens are killed by the police.

Using the Justice Department’s Arrest-Related Deaths report for the years 2003-2009 (reflected in the table below), we can see that 2,026 non-Hispanic Whites were killed by police during those six years. That represented 42.1% of all arrest-related deaths over that period. Meanwhile, 1,529 Blacks died during arrests, or 31.8% of all arrest-related deaths. Of the current U.S. population, Blacks account for 13.4% of all citizens. During the period 2003-2009, the proportion of Blacks in the citizenry was even lower (in 2006, for example, it was 12.2%).

The data is relatively old at this point, but comprehensive data from the Justice Department beyond this is not readily available. However, there’s no reason to believe this has drastically changed, as a pilot study of a new methodology for counting arrest-related deaths during June to August of 2015 showed 25% of arrest-related deaths to be Black citizens. This is somewhat lower than the 31.8% during 2003-2009, but on a small sample and still roughly twice the representation of Blacks in the general population.

In other words, if you are Black in the U.S., the data shows that you are at least twice as likely to be killed during arrest than other races and ethnicities.

U.S. arrest-related deaths by race, 2003-2009

2003-2009 total 2003-2009 %
White, non-Hispanic 2,026 42.1%
Black, non-Hispanic 1,529 31.8%
Hispanic 949 19.7%
Other 150 3.1%
Unknown 159 3.3%
Total 4,813 100.0%
Source: Bureau of Justice, Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) report 2003-2009.
https://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/ard0309st.pdf

Google employment by race, 2020

In the U.S. population as a whole, 13.4% of the population is Black. At a company like Google, with more than 100,000 employees, equity would suggest that roughly 13.4% of Google’s total employees would be Black. They are not.

As the table below shows, the percentage of Black employees, at 3.7%, is far below what equity would dictate. The same holds with Latinex employees at 5.9% (vs 18.3% of the overall population). The percentage of White employees (51.7%) is also lower than the total population (which is 60.4% White).

Meanwhile, Asian employees, at 41.9% of Google’s workforce, are significantly over-represented versus that group’s 5.9% share of the overall population.

Both Black and Latinx employment have been increasing over the past couple of years, but both are still far short of reflecting the share of either group in the broader U.S. population.

% 2020 % 2019 % 2018
Black 3.7% 3.3% 2.5%
White 51.7% 54.4% 53.1%
Asian 41.9% 39.8% 36.3%
Latinx 5.9% 5.7% 3.6%
Native American 0.8% 0.8% 0.3%
2 or more races 4.2%
Source: Google
https://kstatic.googleusercontent.com/files/25badfc6b6d1b33f3b87372ff7545d79261520d821e6ee9a82c4ab2de42a01216be2156bc5a60ae3337ffe7176d90b8b2b3000891ac6e516a650ecebf0e3f866
https://diversity.google/

Princeton University enrollment by race

Consider the entire U.S. population by race. At a large university like Princeton, we would expect to see a racial makeup that’s roughly the same as the U.S. population as a whole.

That is, if we live in a society with racial equality, and everyone, regardless of race, has the same shot at getting an Ivy League education.

This is not the case at Princeton, as the two tables below show.

The first table shows the data as reflected by the Department of Education. In this table, we can see that Black, Hispanic and White students are under-represented as compared to the overall U.S. population. Hispanic students are the most under-represented of these groups as compared to the overall U.S. population, followed by Black students, then White students.

Meanwhile, Asian students are over-represented as compared to the overall population, by a factor of more than three. Multi-race students are also more prevalent in the Princeton student body than in the general population.

The first table is somewhat misleading though, as there is a considerable percentage of students that are foreign students and for whom race/ethnicity is unknown. These are captured in the outsized “Other” group. In the second table, those two groups are removed.

The second table is a better comparison to the U.S. population as a whole, but doesn’t change the general picture. That is, that Hispanic and Black students are under-represented by a notable degree, while White students are also marginally under-represented. After adjusting, the percentage of Asian students at Princeton is roughly four times the representation in the overall population.

Princeton University undergraduate enrollment by race, fall 2018

Black 8.0%
White 41.0%
Asian 21.0%
Hispanic 10.0%
Multiple races 5.0%
Other 15.0%
Source: Department of Education
https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=princeton&s=all&id=186131#enrolmt

Princeton University undergraduate enrollment by race, fall 2018 (adjusted)

Black 9.3%
White 47.7%
Asian 24.4%
Hispanic 11.6%
Multiple races 5.8%
Other 1.2%
Source: Department of Education. Adjustment calculations made by author to remove foreign students and students for whom race/ethnicity is unknown.
https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=princeton&s=all&id=186131#enrolmt

U.S. median pre-tax family income by race

The table below shows the median pre-tax family income in the U.S., separated by race.

Since the median is the middle value of a distribution, this data, as opposed to the mean/average, does not take into account the general overall income inequality in the country. That is, when you take into account that a small portion of the U.S. population makes far more than most in the country, those incomes skew the average higher. By using the median, we are avoiding that skew from ultra-high-income individuals.

In an equal country, what we would expect to see is a median income that’s roughly equal across races. Since we’re talking about millions of families, living all over the country, the sample should be large enough that if race didn’t play a role in family income, we’d see similar family incomes across races.

As is quickly evident, that is not the case. The second table simply takes the data in the first and compares White family incomes to non-White family incomes. As can be seen in that second table, not only are White family incomes significantly higher than non-White families (1.7 times the median Black family income and 1.6 times the median Hispanic family income), with the exception of the three years between 1989 and 1992, there hasn’t been meaningful progress in closing the gap between White and non-White incomes over the past 24 years.

Median before-tax family income ($ in thousands)

1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 2010 2013 2016
Black 11.5 17.1 17.3 19.3 25.0 27.9 31.3 30.5 31.2 35.4
White 30.3 30.7 33.1 38.1 45.3 49.4 51.8 52.8 55.8 61.2
Hispanic/Latino 14.6 17.2 21.7 23.5 24.7 27.3 36.0 35.1 32.5 38.5
Other 22.6 27.7 35.1 33.4 35.0 45.2 50.6 42.2 41.2 50.6
Source: Federal Reserve
https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/scfindex.htm

Median White before-tax family income versus non-White family income

1989 1992 1995 1998 2001 2004 2007 2010 2013 2016
White/Black multiple 2.6x 1.8x 1.9x 2.0x 1.8x 1.8x 1.7x 1.7x 1.8x 1.7x
White/Hispanic multiple 2.1x 1.8x 1.5x 1.6x 1.8x 1.8x 1.4x 1.5x 1.7x 1.6x
White/Other multiple 1.3x 1.1x 0.9x 1.1x 1.3x 1.1x 1.0x 1.3x 1.4x 1.2x
Source: Federal Reserve and author’s calculations.
https://www.federalreserve.gov/econres/scfindex.htm

Harvard University enrollment by race

By looking at the entire U.S. population by race, we should get a picture of what the racial makeup of a large university like Harvard would look like. At least, that should be the case in a roughly equal society, where all races have similar resources and opportunities.

The racial makeup of the country is not reflected in the student body at Harvard. And it should be reasonable to expect that it would, considering the sample size. Harvard’s 2018 undergraduate enrollment was nearly 10,000.

In the table below, Black and Hispanic students are both under-represented at 8% (versus 13.4% of the overall population) and 11% (18.3%). Of note, non-Hispanic White students are also under-represented at 41% (versus 60.4% of the overall population). Asian students are markedly over-represented at 18% (5.9%). There is also a higher proportion of multi-race students (6% versus 2.7% of the U.S. population).

However, the first table may be somewhat misleading, as the Other category contains such a large percentage (16%). The majority (12%) of that group is “non-resident aliens”. That is, foreign students attending Harvard. There are also 3% of students who are listed as “race/ethnicity unknown”. Including both of these groups in the racial/ethnic calculations makes the data less comparable to the overall U.S. population.

In the second table below, I’ve adjusted the data to eliminate the effect of foreign students and the students for whom race/ethnicity is not known. After that adjustment, all percentages rise, bringing Black, Hispanic, and White student numbers closer to the overall U.S. population, but still below. The proportion of Asian students and multi-race students rises further after this adjustment.

Harvard University undergraduate enrollment by race, fall 2018

Black 8.0%
White 41.0%
Asian 18.0%
Hispanic 11.0%
Multiple races 6.0%
Other 16.0%
Source: Department of Education
https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=harvard&s=all&id=166027#enrolmt

Harvard University undergraduate enrollment by race, fall 2018 (adjusted)

Black 9.4%
White 48.2%
Asian 21.2%
Hispanic 12.9%
Multiple races 7.1%
Other 1.2%
Source: Department of Education. Adjustment calculations made by author to remove foreign students and students for whom race/ethnicity is unknown.
https://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/?q=harvard&s=all&id=166027#enrolmt

U.S. occupations by race

Looking at data on the types of occupations in which U.S. worker are employed, we would expect to see that race is not a serious factor in the distribution of jobs. That is, the percentage of individuals working in management within a given race should be roughly equal across races, and the percentage of those working in service jobs should be roughly equal across races.

We do not see that in this data. As the tables below show, we do see rough parity in some occupations, like office and administrative jobs and production jobs, but there are marked gaps in most other occupations.

The management, business, and financial occupations include roles like CEO, engineering manager, management analyst, and accountant. 20% of White workers are employed in roles that fall into this category. By contrast, 11.5% of Black workers are employed in these roles.

Service occupations include jobs like medical assistants, fire fighters, food preparation worker, food servers, maids and house cleaners, pest control, lobby attendants and ticket takers, and home care aides. Of the Black employed population, 24.2% are employed in these roles. Comparatively, 13.8% of White workers are in these roles.

Note, this is not a value judgment on any specific occupation or role. That is, this isn’t to be read as there are “good jobs” and “bad jobs”. Engineers and lawyers are important and necessary jobs, but so are janitors and cashiers. That said, there are occupations that come with typically higher pay, better benefits, more time off, more flexibility, etc. There are likewise jobs that come with more physical risk — a point particularly notable at the time of this writing, as Covid-19 creates additional risk for certain occupations (like service workers). In an equal society, we wouldn’t expect to see race playing a role in who is employed in occupations with, for example, higher pay potential versus those in occupations with higher health risk.

(Note that the data below is civilian population, so it does not include military)

Occupation of the civilian employed population 16 years and over 2019, by race

(% of group and % of total)

Black White Other Total
Management, professional, and related occupations 32.3% 46.3% 31.5% 40.9%
– Management, business, and financial 11.5% 20.0% 12.2% 17.0%
– Professional and related 20.8% 26.4% 19.4% 23.9%
Service occupations 24.2% 13.8% 21.9% 17.1%
Sales and office occupations 21.4% 21.6% 20.0% 21.2%
– Sales and related 8.7% 10.5% 9.2% 9.9%
– Office and administrative 12.7% 11.2% 10.7% 11.2%
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations 0.2% 0.5% 1.5% 0.7%
Construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations 5.2% 7.5% 11.2% 8.2%
– Construction and extraction 2.9% 4.4% 8.4% 5.2%
– Installation, maintenance, and repair 2.3% 3.1% 2.8% 3.0%
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations 16.6% 10.2% 14.0% 11.9%
– Production 6.1% 5.0% 6.8% 5.6%
– Transportation and material moving 10.6% 5.3% 7.2% 6.4%
Total 100.0% 100.0% 100.0% 100.0%
Source: Census.gov, https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2019/demo/race/ppl-ba19.html

We can look at the same data in terms of the share of each occupation for each race. In this case, our expectation would be that the share for each race is roughly equivalent to that race’s representation in the overall U.S. population.

In specific terms, 13.4% of the U.S. population is Black, so we could expect that consistently across occupations 13.4% of employees would be Black.

Alternatively, we could assume that the distribution by race across occupations would be similar to the distribution by race of all employees. Black workers are 12.2% of the overall employed population, so in this case, we’d expect to see that Black workers represent roughly 12.2% of the workers across occupations.

Looked at this way, we can likewise see that occupations where Black workers are over-represented include service occupations and transportation and material occupations (the latter including jobs like air traffic control, bus drivers, crane operators, taxi drivers, and freight laborers). Occupations where Black workers are under-represented include management, business, and financial occupations and construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations (brick- and stonemasons, carpenters, electricians, roofers, highway maintenance, derrick operators, mining machine operators).

Of note, while Black workers are notably under-represented in construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations, so are White workers. It is the Other race category that is over-represented for these occupations.

Occupation share of the civilian employed population 16 years and over 2019, by race

(% of each occupation by race)

Black White Other
Management, professional, and related occupations 9.6% 70.7% 19.6%
– Management, business, and financial 8.3% 73.5% 18.3%
– Professional and related 10.6% 68.8% 20.6%
Service occupations 17.3% 50.2% 32.5%
Sales and office occupations 12.3% 63.7% 24.0%
– Sales and related 10.6% 65.8% 23.6%
– Office and administrative 13.8% 61.9% 24.3%
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations 4.2% 43.9% 52.0%
Construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations 7.8% 57.4% 34.8%
– Construction and extraction 6.8% 52.5% 40.7%
– Installation, maintenance, and repair 9.6% 65.9% 24.5%
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations 17.0% 53.3% 29.7%
– Production 13.3% 55.6% 31.1%
– Transportation and material moving 20.2% 51.3% 28.5%
Total 12.2% 62.4% 25.4%
Source: Census.gov, https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2019/demo/race/ppl-ba19.html

Finally, we can look at the data by the total number of employees employed in a given occupation. Here, we can look at the occupations where the largest total number of workers are employed.

For example, 25.7 million White workers are employed in professional and related occupations (computer systems analysts, web developers, civil engineers, psychologists, social workers, lawyers, teachers, etc.). That’s the largest total number of White employees among the sub-groupings. Meanwhile, 6.4 million Black workers are employed in service occupations, the largest total number in a sub-grouping.

Occupation of the civilian employed population 16 years and over 2019, by race

(in thousands)

Black White Other Total
Management, professional, and related occupations 6,160 45,193 12,552 63,905
– Management, business, and financial 2,195 19,490 4,843 26,528
– Professional and related 3,965 25,703 7,709 37,377
Service occupations 4,624 13,443 8,709 26,776
Sales and office occupations 4,078 21,116 7,942 33,136
– Sales and related 1,654 10,228 3,669 15,551
– Office and administrative 2,424 10,888 4,273 17,585
Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations 47 493 584 1,124
Construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations 996 7,337 4,456 12,789
– Construction and extraction 551 4,283 3,323 8,157
– Installation, maintenance, and repair 445 3,054 1,133 4,632
Production, transportation, and material moving occupations 3,173 9,962 5,553 18,688
– Production 1,156 4,833 2,700 8,689
– Transportation and material moving 2,017 5,129 2,852 9,998
Total 19,078 97,544 39,796 156,418
Source: Census.gov, https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2019/demo/race/ppl-ba19.html

U.S. educational attainment by race

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows the highest level of education attained. In an equal society, we would expect to see roughly similar levels of educational attainment across races.

Here, we see that while 1.3% of Whites had less than a 9th grade education, more than twice that percentage (2.3x) of Blacks had less than a 9th grade education. Likewise for those that completed some high school, but didn’t finish. Just over 4% of Whites fell into this category, while it was more than 9% for Blacks (2.2x differential).

The data flips for higher levels of education. A full 25% of Whites earned a bachelor’s degree, while just 16.6% of Blacks did (1.5x differential). The gap widens further for advanced degrees. 15% of Whites had an advanced degree and 9.5% of Blacks had one (1.6x differential).

Education level at >25 years old by race (percentage of total)

Less than 9th grade9th to 12th grade (no diploma)High school graduateSome college or associate’s degreeBachelor’s degreeAdvanced degree
White1.3%4.1%27.4%27.1%25.0%15.1%
Black3.0%9.2%32.6%29.2%16.6%9.5%
Other11.5%9.8%27.6%21.0%18.9%11.2%
Total3.9%6.0%28.1%25.9%22.6%13.5%
Source: Census.gov
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2019/demo/race/ppl-ba19.html

Education level at >25 years old by race (number, in thousands)

Less than 9th grade9th to 12th grade (no diploma)High school graduateSome college or associate’s degreeBachelor’s degreeAdvanced degree
White1,8565,83039,09438,62435,64221,511
Black8102,5148,9448,0134,5442,604
Other5,9375,02814,22110,7919,7515,765
Source: Census.gov
https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2019/demo/race/ppl-ba19.html

U.S. prisoners by race

According to the Bureau of Justice, in 2018, there were more than 1.2 million prisoners in state and federal prisons. Of those, 465,200 were Black, 430,500 were White, and 330,200 were Hispanic.

In order to fully appreciate this data, it’s helpful to know the breakdown of the total U.S. population by race. While the majority of the U.S. population is White (60.4% identifies as White, non-Hispanic), there are more total Black prisoners than White ones. The U.S. population as a whole is 13.4% Black, but roughly 38% of the prison population in 2018 was Black.

In an equal society, we would expect that the prison population would have roughly the same makeup as the overall population. This is especially true since we incarcerate so many people in this country and therefore have an unusually large sample size. In other words, we would expect roughly 13.4% of the prison population to be Black, not 38%.

The Hispanic population is also over-represented in this data. While 18.3% of the overall population identifies as Hispanic, nearly 27% of the prison population in 2018 was Hispanic.

Total U.S. prisoners by race

(sentenced prisoners under jurisdiction of state or federal authorities)

20142015201620172018
White461,500450,200440,200436,500430,500
Black518,700499,400487,300475,900465,200
Hispanic338,900333,200339,600336,500330,200
Total1,319,1001,282,8001,267,1001,248,9001,225,900
Source: Bureau of Justice, Prisoners in 2018 report.
https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=269

Percentage of U.S. prisoners by race

20142015201620172018
White35.0%35.1%34.7%35.0%35.1%
Black39.3%38.9%38.5%38.1%37.9%
Hispanic25.7%26.0%26.8%26.9%26.9%
Source: Bureau of Justice, Prisoners in 2018 report. Author’s calculations
https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=dcdetail&iid=269