Looking at city government demographics
by Tyler Dratch and Ben Max
With the election of Melissa Mark-Viverito as speaker by her colleagues, the New York City Council has its first ever Latino in that post. Including the three popularly-elected city-wide offices of mayor, public advocate, and comptroller, she is also the first Latino to hold any of these four positions with city-wide responsibilities.
In a city with an increasing Latino population, at 29% of New Yorkers according to the 2010 census, many see it as fitting that there is a Latino in a position of such power and leadership. Mark-Viverito expressed pride over being the first Latino speaker of the city council and many of her colleagues, Latino and not, proudly touted their roles in making history.
Mark-Viverito’s history-making came on the heels of her former council colleague Tish James’ own historic victory: in November, James was elected public advocate and the first woman of color (she is African-American) to hold one of the three popularly-elected city-wide positions.
Thanks to November’s elections, the newly elected city council that James left to run for public advocate and Mark-Viverito now heads ushered in 21 “rookies” to its 51-member body. As Decide NYC explored when September’s primaries gave indication, the gender and racial/ethnic breakdown of the new council was not expected to differ much from the outgoing one – and it does not.
With only a few exceptions, almost every one of those new 21 council members is the same gender and race/ethnicity as his or her predecessor. For example, Public Advocate James has been succeeded on the council by another African-American woman, Laurie Cumbo.
This is not to say, by any means, that gender and race/ethnicity make a person in his or her entirety. We do believe, though, that looking at city government demographics is a worthwhile and informative line of study. You can see our spreadsheet of raw data here (also embedded below). It includes gender, race/ethnicity, and more.
The first sheet of the spreadsheet details the city council. The second sheet, the three city-wide electeds and the five borough presidents (toggle between sheets at the top of the document).
Now, with the new mayor, public advocate, and comptroller, the five borough presidents, and 51 city council members having taken or re-taken office, we can analyze the demographic breakdown of the city’s elected legislators. And, we can do so in comparison to the demographics of the city they are elected to represent. This is especially interesting when we consider the 51 member council in comparison to the city population.
[For a recap of the three city-wide electeds and five borough presidents, see the aforementioned September post and the second sheet within the spreadsheet embedded below.]
Throughout these lines of study we can ask important questions: how representative of our city populous is its elected city government? How important is it that the council, borough presidents, and citywide officials are representative of the city’s population? Or, is it most important that council members represent the majority racial/ethnic group of their districts? Etcetera.
Some quick facts to help inform looking at gender and race/ethnicity in city government:
According to 2010 Census data, New York City is…
53% female; 47% male
33% white; 29% Hispanic; 23% black; 13% Asian
Meanwhile, as of January, 2014, the New York City Council is…
29% female; 71% male via 15 female CMs; 36 male CMs
49% white; 22% Hispanic; 13% black; 4% Asian via 25 white CMs; 11 Hispanic CMs; 13 black CMs; 2 Asian CMs
If the council was to match city-wide percentages, it would include 27 female CMs and 24 male CMs; and it would include 17 white CMs, 15 Hispanic CMs, 12 black CMs, and 7 Asian CMs.
The council currently has a Women’s Caucus and a Black, Latino, Asian (BLA) Caucus, as well as a Progressive Caucus. A source with intimate knowledge has also said that the council will soon see the formation of a “Jewish Caucus.” Council members’ religious affiliations have been especially difficult to ascertain, so we have left it out of our data. Inquiries to several council members’ offices asking about the council members’ religious affiliations were not returned.
Please look through the following spreadsheet for our “raw data” of demographic and other information:
Corrections or other comments? Please email us at DecideNYC@gmail.com
Andre Simone contributed research for this study.