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Living with the Future in Mind
Goals and Indicators for New Jersey's Quality of Life
First Annual Update to the Sustainable State Project Report 2000

Indicator 8


Additional  Equity Indicators

7 - Equal Pay

9 - Infant Mortality

Legislators' Reflection of Population

Percent of women, blacks, and Latinos serving in the 120-member State Legislature: Increasing

  Things to think about 

Most of the minority representatives in the State Legislature are in the 80-member General Assembly. The 40-member Senate is still composed overwhelmingly of white males. Because General Assembly members are often elected to the Senate later in their careers, this disparity may lessen in the future.

Americans fought successfully to remove "Jim Crow" laws instituted after the Civil War, which restricted the right of some citizens to vote and be represented. Despite this progress, we have moved only somewhat closer to representation that reflects our population.

Confidence in government increases when people see "one of their own" in elected office.

 

Importance

Representation is one of our most basic rights and one of our strongest tools for shaping the future. While an individual of any race or gender may serve the interests of others well, it is both fair and healthy for our democracy when our elected officials reflect the makeup of the population they serve. The number of female state legislators in New Jersey has grown significantly, but still remains extremely low - fewer than 16 percent of our state legislators are female, earning New Jersey 39th place in national standings. The percentage of Latino state legislators also remains proportionately smaller than our Latino population. One group has made significant progress in the past two decades: the number of African American state legislators today is nearly proportional to the size of our black population. 

Economic

Although our economy is based on free market principles, the government plays a role in ensuring that the economy provides equal opportunities for minorities.

Environmental

Many environmental decisions, such as where to locate undesirable waste facilities, are made by government. Government can also play a role in restoring brownfields, protecting against lead poisoning, and creating parkland. Environmental inequities can result when minorities and those who live in poor areas do not have equal representation. They may receive more than their fair share of undesirable facilities.

Social

A legislature consisting of the full mosaic of cultures and ideas may be better able to incorporate diverse ideas and debate the full array of social problems than a legislature consisting primarily of one group.

Knowledge Gaps

There are many other positions in the State that could also be examined to determine how representative public officials are of the population. However, there is no readily available analysis of these positions. Positions such as those on local school and planning boards can be particularly important for building a fairer future.

Data Sources: National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, New Jersey Office of Legislative Services, Rutgers Center for the American Woman and Politics, and New Jersey Future

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Copyright © State of New Jersey, 1996-2006
Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Modified: April 25, 2007

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