National Database of Non-White Elected Officials

The GMCL research team constructed a national database of elected officials of color at the federal, state, and local levels. The first step was to consult the most current directories provided by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials), and the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. We added American Indian elected officials at the level of state legislature and one congressional seat identified from the National Conference of State Legislators and other sources. The second step was to verify the directory information for accuracy, recode the information to make it consistent across groups, and expand its usefulness by linking contextual (e.g., demographic) data from the U.S. Census and other sources. Our verification process determined that the extent to which the database captures the officials in office at that time was more accurate for different racial groups than others, and for different levels of office.

The database of approximately 10,000 elected officials of color includes elected officials who fall into the following categories: elected officials in congressional, statewide, state legislative, county, municipal, and school board offices. (See box to the right for a listing of the types of officials who are in the database.) The database includes, for the most part, officials who were in office in 2006. Once the database was complete, we used it to conduct the Survey of Elected Officials of Color.

A Note on Race and Ethnicity: African American is used interchangeably with Black, and Hispanic is used interchangeably with Latino. The Asian category includes native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. We use the term American Indian rather than Native American. The American Indian category also includes Alaskan natives. For reference to all non-white groups in our study, we sometimes use the term “elected officials of color.” We are aware of the scholarly argument that“white” is itself a “color” in a social and political sense. We respect the differences in scholarly opinion on this issue. For our purposes, references to people of color do not include non-Hispanic whites.

A Note on the Numbers: The total number of elected officials of color in the United States is greater than the approximately 10,000 elected officials in our database. For example, there are more than 9,000 Black and 5,000 Hispanic/Latino elected officials, according to the most recent rosters of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) and National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO). The difference is due to the fact that the GMCL database does not include judicial or law enforcement positions; party officials; statewide, county, municipal and school board officials in addition to those listed above; county and municipal officials who serve on a variety of boards and commissions such as water, utility, and so on; non-voting members of Congress; and, finally, elected officials from Puerto Rico or territories such as Guam and American Samoa.



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