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The research presented here is long overdue, but it is just the beginning of our collective understanding of the experience of being both a legislator and a caretaker. While Vote Mama Foundation’s analysis focuses on the intersection of motherhood and political participation, it is our intention for this data to benefit all those working toward an equitable and accountable political system.

  • We evaluate representativeness  in terms of the population. We consider equitable representation to be achieved when the share of a demographic in a legislature is similar to that of the adult population in the United States. Unless specifically noted otherwise, all population-level statistics are derived from 2020 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year Estimate Public Use Microdata. 

    It is important to note that this definition is not intended to be a measure of ideal representation—it may not be enough to adequately center the needs of vulnerable populations or even provide protection from outright harms. Proportional representation should be our baseline, but it does not have to be our end goal.

  • Politics of Parenthood is a dataset of robust demographics for state and federal legislators. Variables include but are not limited to date elected to current office, education, previous occupation, age, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, ability status, parental status, age of youngest child, and caregiving status. 

    Data are collected through extensive monitoring of news and social media and build on the work of other organizations. Because the data relies on publicly available information, it is not infallible or exhaustive. However, to the knowledge of Vote Mama Foundation, it is the largest and most complete demographic dataset of legislators in the U.S.

    • All state legislators who use she/her or they/them pronouns in office as of August 2022

    • All members of the 118th Congress as of April 2023.

  • Mamas are cis and trans women with biological children, foster children, step-children, and formally or informally adopted children under the age of 18. We also refer to mamas interchangeably as moms of minor kids or mothers of minor children. Though our research focus is on the political participation of mamas, the dataset includes parental status for all included legislators, regardless of their gender or the age of their youngest child.

17.78%

of state legislators are mamas (kids <18)

90

total state legislators

16

mamas in state legislature

0

mamas needed to reach proportional representation

#1: Oregon

75% of  women and nonbinary state legislators are mothers, but only 16.9% of women state legislators have minor children. In the United States as a whole, 85% of women have children by age 45, and 34.8% of all adult women have minor children. Consequently, moms with young children are represented in state legislatures at less than half the rate they appear in the population, despite the fact that mothers in general are relatively close to full representation.

 

This data suggests that the lack of representation of moms with minor children is the result of structural marginalization rather than individual circumstances or preferences. Further, it suggests that moms of young children face barriers that are unique, or intensified, compared to women and mothers of adult children.

Key Findings:

There is a distinct pattern of decreasing representation as child age decreases. Less than half of all state legislators who are moms of minors have kids estimated to be younger than middle to high school age.

In 2021-2022, the birth rate among women state legislators was just 0.5%, a rate ten times lower than the estimated rate of 5% among the total population of U.S. women.

  • Figure: Representation among legislators with minor children grouped by age of youngest child.

    Key Findings: 

    There is a pattern of decreasing representation as child age decreases. Less than half of state legislators who are moms of minors have kids estimated to be younger than middle to high school age. In 2021-2022, the birth rate among women state legislators was just 0.5%, a rate ten times lower than the estimated rate of 5% among the total population of U.S. women.

  • Figure: Party affiliation of women and nonbinary state legislators grouped by parental status and age of youngest child.

    Key Findings: 

    There is a distinct Democratic majority among women and nonbinary legislators, with 66% identifying as Democrats. Moms of young children lean even more heavily Democratic at 73%.

  • Figure: Race and ethnicity as a percentage of women and nonbinary state legislators grouped by parental status and age of youngest child.

    Key Findings: 

    Moms with young kids have greater diversity in race and ethnicity than their counterparts with adult children with one notable exception: there are proportionally fewer Black moms with minor children than Black mothers of adult children. Tracking variation in demographics over time will allow for future analysis on the intersections of parenthood and other underrepresented groups.

The research presented here is long overdue, but it is just the beginning of our collective understanding of the experience of being both a legislator and a caretaker. While Vote Mama Foundation’s analysis focuses on the intersection of motherhood and political participation, it is our intention for this data to benefit all those working toward an equitable and accountable political system.

  • Politics of Parenthood is a dataset of robust demographics for state and federal legislators. Our aim is to provide nuanced and accessible data suited for both research and public communication. 

    • Legislators include: all state legislators who use she/her or they/them pronouns in office as of August 2022 and all members of the 118th Congress as of April 2023

    • Variables include: date elected to current office, education, previous occupation, age, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, marital status, ability status, parental status, number of children, age of youngest child, and caregiving status. 

    Data are collected through extensive monitoring of news and social media and build on the work of other organizations. Because the data relies on publicly available information, it is not infallible or exhaustive. However, to the knowledge of Vote Mama Foundation, it is the largest and most complete demographic dataset of legislators in the U.S.

  • Mamas are cis and trans women with biological children, foster children, step-children, and formally or informally adopted children under the age of 18. We also refer to mamas interchangeably as moms of minor kids or mothers of minor children. Though our research focus is on the political participation of mamas, the dataset includes parental status for all included legislators, regardless of their gender or the age of their youngest child.

  • We evaluate representativeness  in terms of the population. We consider equitable representation to be achieved when the share of a demographic in a legislature is similar to that of the adult population in the United States. Unless specifically noted otherwise, all population-level statistics are derived from 2020 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year Estimate Public Use Microdata. 

    It is important to note that this definition is not intended to be a measure of ideal representation—it may not be enough to adequately center the needs of vulnerable populations or It is important to note that this definition is not intended to be a measure of ideal representation—it may not be enough to adequately center the needs of vulnerable populations or even provide protection from outright harms. Proportional representation should be our baseline, but it does not have to be our end goal. provide protection from outright harms. Proportional representation should be our baseline, but it does not have to be our end goal.

17.8%

OF ADULTS IN THE U.S. ARE MAMAS (KIDS <18)

926

MAMAS ARE NEEDED TO REACH PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

5.3%

OF STATE LEGISLATORS ARE MAMAS (KIDS <18)

Representation in State Legislatures 2022

17.8%

OF ADULTS IN THE U.S. ARE MAMAS (KIDS <18)

926

MAMAS ARE NEEDED TO REACH PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

5.3%

OF STATE LEGISLATORS ARE MAMAS (KIDS <18)

Representation in State Legislatures 2022

17.8%

OF ADULTS IN THE U.S. ARE MAMAS (KIDS <18)

926

MAMAS ARE NEEDED TO REACH PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION

5.3%

OF STATE LEGISLATORS ARE MAMAS (KIDS <18)

Representation in State Legislatures 2022

REACHING FULL REPRESENTATION: STATE RANKINGS

Oregon is the only state legislature in the United States with proportional representation of mothers with minor children. Alabama is the only state with no moms of minors serving in its state legislature. Only 8 states have even half the number of mamas that are needed for full representation, and 23 states have less than a quarter.

REACHING FULL REPRESENTATION:

STATE RANKINGS

Oregon is the only state legislature in the United States with proportional representation of mothers with minor children. Alabama is the only state with no moms of minors serving in its state legislature. Only 8 states have even half the number of mamas that are needed for full representation, and 23 states have less than a quarter.

Politics of Parenthood

Oregon is the only state legislature in the United States with proportional representation of mothers with minor children. Alabama is the only state with no moms of minors serving in its state legislature. Only 8 states have even half the number of mamas that are needed for full representation, and 23 states have less than a quarter.

17.8%

of adults in the united states are mamas (kids <18)

926

mamas are needed to reach proportional representation

5.3%

of state legislators are mamas (kids <18)

Reaching Proportional Representation:

State Legislatures

2022 State Rankings

Demographics

"It's important that elected officials are reflective of the population they are serving, which means making it accessible for parents of young children to hold elected office. It's a small step forward to ensure those who want to serve their state and start a family are able to do so. We need more young moms in office who understand the current struggles families are facing."

BRITTANY PETTERSEN, FORMER COLORADO STATE SENATOR

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