A new study finds the makeup of the state legislature is not representative of New Jersey’s population.
The study from the William Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University found 7 in 10 Trenton lawmakers are male, and 83 percent are white, compared to 69 percent of the state’s population.
Center director Daniel Douglas says “it is just much-less diverse than the population at large, much older than the population at large.”
About 27 percent of the Legislature are lawyers. And while 81 percent of state lawmakers have at least a bachelor’s degree or higher, just 36 percent of Jersey’s population have college degrees.
“The typical New Jersey legislator is a middle aged, white, non-veteran Democratic man who is college-educated — mostly by an out-of-state, private institution — [and] frequently a lawyer who happens to use Facebook and Twitter.”
Douglas pins a lot of the blame on county party bosses in Jersey, a “good ol’ boys club” of decision makers who act as a filter against diversity.
“Even now, most of the county party chairs are white men. There are very few females involved, so it tends to limit the selection of a more diverse candidate pool.”
He says there tends to be more men in the legislature, because the chairmen tend to be men, and it is difficult for women to break into that. There are fewer women at lower levels in county and municipal government also, which tends to be sort of a “minor league system” for the Legislature.
“It really needs some top-level leadership in both parties to decide that they want to represent a more diverse group of candidates to the voters.”
Douglas says New Jersey is actually ahead of other state legislatures, with 3 in 10 lawmakers a female.