POLITICS

Asian Americans Are Severely Underrepresented In U.S. Elected Office

Though Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders make up 6% of the nation’s population, only 0.9% of federal, state and local elected officials were AAPI in 2020.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are “extremely” underrepresented in elected office across the nation, according to a new report from the Reflective Democracy Campaign. 

While AAPI people make up about 6% of the U.S. population, they represented a meager 0.9% of federal, state and local elected leaders in 2020, according to the report. 

Looking at the current makeup of Congress, only two of the 100 senators are Asian American or Pacific Islander — Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) — and 15 out of the 435 representatives in the House are AAPI. That’s only 3.2% of Congress. 

With January’s Senate departure of Kamala Harris, who now is the nation’s first Asian American vice president, there are no Black women senators. 

“Our nation is made stronger when its government looks more like the people it represents,” Duckworth said in a news release, adding that the report “helps demonstrate the woeful lack of AAPI representation in government.” 

“I’ll continue working to make sure that everyone in our country has a seat at the table,” the senator added.   

Even though the AAPI community is one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the U.S., it is the least represented in elected office, according to the report. Asian Americans are underrepresented among political leaders by a factor of -85% relative to their population. By comparison, white Americans are overrepresented in elected office by a factor of +46%. 

The relative under- and over-representation of demographic groups in elected office, according to the Reflective Democracy Ca
The relative under- and over-representation of demographic groups in elected office, according to the Reflective Democracy Campaign report

The report comes out amid a rise in anti-Asian racism and violence over the past year. 

Last month, President Joe Biden appointed Erika Moritsugu as a senior liaison to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, to direct the administration’s outreach to those communities. 

The high-level appointment came after Duckworth and Hirono criticized the lack of Asian Americans in senior roles in the Biden administration, threatening to block Biden’s nominees. They later backed down after receiving assurances from the White House.

Harris and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai are currently the only Asian Americans in Biden’s Cabinet.