Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Best West Coast small towns to live in

Best West Coast small towns to live in

The American dream of buying a home in a quaint small town is still alive and well. A growing number of people consider rural living ideal: In 2021, small towns and rural areas gained population, while cities lost people, according to a New York Times analysis of Census Bureau data.

A Pew survey in October 2021 found that about 1 in 5 Americans (19%) would most like to live in a city, but 35% wanted to live in rural areas, and 46% preferred suburbs. Inflation may mean some of those people can't afford to leave cities or must go back, but their preferences remain.

Of course, a small town in a great location will always be more popular than one that's truly remote. That's where this list of the best small towns on the West Coast comes in handy. Stacker referenced Niche's 2022 Best Places to Live and filtered the results to the West Coast and then narrowed them further to places under 5,000 residents. Niche calculated the best places to live based on cost, safety, weather quality, access to healthy living, and other factors.

Whether you're considering a move or just want a peek into what small-town life could be like, this list will certainly inspire some home searches.

You may also like: Best place to live in every state

#25. East Richmond Heights, California

- Population: 3,355

One Oakland Tribune advertisement from 1913 called East Richmond Heights "the garden of the gods." Though that slogan might have been exaggerated to sell tracts of land, this quiet, small town still ranks highly for its diversity and family-friendly lifestyle.

#24. Mirrormont, Washington

- Population: 4,196

Mirrormont, just west of Tiger Mountain State Forest in the southeastern suburbs of Seattle, was founded in 1962, with large lots featuring plenty of trees—and signature A-frame style homes. With great schools and outdoor activities nearby—including golf, tennis, and swimming at the local country club—it's known for its privacy and strict rules to protect the neighborhood's rustic character.

#23. Durham, Oregon

- Population: 2,073

Southwest of Portland, this small community's area is about one-fifth of parks and open space. It's named for a man who ran mills on the creek that runs through town. He was followed by a family who ran a tree and shrub nursery and planted trees in the area, many surviving. In 1966, residents formed a city to stave off development. Local laws fiercely guard the trees, which can only be removed with a permit.

#22. Cambrian Park, California

- Population: 3,674

Although Cambrian Park sits inside the San Jose city limits, it is technically an unincorporated census-designated place—a confusing designation that stems from shifting school district boundaries, press coverage, and ZIP codes in the 1950s. Easy access to city and county parks, good schools, and shopping malls make Cambrian Park a desirable place to live.

#21. Stafford, Oregon

- Population: 1,999

This self-described "hamlet" was created in 2006 on previously unorganized territory in Clackamas County, southeast of Portland. Its residents have set aside areas that will never be developed and set guiding principles and specific rules for any subdivisions or developments that may be proposed in the community.

#20. Ladera, California

- Population: 1,449

First founded as a housing cooperative in 1946, Ladera has a colorful history. The Peninsula Housing Association—the group of 262 members behind the purchase and development of the land—ran out of money before it could build its dream community. Then, the four non-white families were forced to withdraw from the investment. Only white people were allowed to buy homes in the resulting development—a requirement that remained in the housing rules until 2021.

#19. Portola Valley, California

- Population: 4,458

Though Portola Valley sits on top of the San Andreas Fault, the potential for seismic activity has not hampered the town. What is now known as Portola Valley began as a logging town community called Searsville. Once all the redwoods had been cleared, the logging companies deserted Searsville, and a collection of small farmers and a few wealthy estate owners moved in.

#18. Mount Hermon, California

- Population: 1,254

This small town in Santa Cruz County was originally known as Tuxedo Junction, a stop on the South Pacific Coast Railroad with a well-known resort. Today, in addition to residential homes, Mount Hermon hosts a Christian youth camp of the same name.

#17. Rancho Santa Fe, California

- Population: 2,914

Rancho Santa Fe's history dates back to a time before California's statehood, when Mexico's Gov. Pio Pico awarded the area in a land grant to San Diego's first mayor Juan Osuna in 1840. In the early 1900s, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway company bought the land and planted eucalyptus trees for later use as railroad ties. After that experiment failed, the company decided to turn the land into a residential development, and Rancho Santa Fe, as we know it, was born.

#16. Mission Canyon, California

- Population: 2,353

This suburb of Santa Barbara is named for nearby Old Mission Santa Barbara, founded by Spanish Franciscan friars in 1786, and the dramatic canyon landscape. Visitors flock to this neighborhood for the lush Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and several popular hiking trails.

#15. Hidden Hills, California

- Population: 2,182

Known for celebrity residents like Kardashian family members, music stars, and actors, Hidden Hills offers a rarefied version of a small-town lifestyle. This gated residential community developed in the mid-1950s boasts an extensive network of equestrian trails—some residents even pick up their kids on horseback. With so many A-list celebrities in the community, Hidden Hills also takes privacy extremely seriously. The community has even banned Google's photography vehicles from recording the area for Google Street View.

#14. Sleepy Hollow, California

- Population: 2,511

With just 750 homes, Sleepy Hollow is a quiet, peaceful Bay Area town beloved by equestrians and hikers alike for its proximity to two nature preserves. During World War II, the Army used a Sleepy Hollow golf course for the secret storage of munitions.

#13. Medina, Washington

- Population: 2,928

Halfway between the Seattle suburbs of Bellevue and Kirkland, this community on the shore of Lake Washington is an attractive choice for families—as well as a few well-known wealthy residents like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. It's also an expensive place to buy a home: According to Zillow, the median home price in Medina is more than $4 million. It's no surprise that Medina was ranked the eighth-richest ZIP code by Bloomberg.

#12. Woodway, Washington

- Population: 1,119

Half an hour north of Seattle, you'll find Woodway: a self-described "quiet place" where residents love to walk and bike around the evergreen-lined lanes and local parks. The town's history dates back to 1912 when David Whitcomb Sr. developed 400 acres into modest, country-style homes.

#11. Del Monte Forest, California

- Population: 3,604

This unincorporated community in Monterey County is known for its picturesque views. Visitors might want to spend a leisurely afternoon checking out all the sights on 17-Mile Drive, including the Lone Cypress—a rugged, salt air-pruned tree clinging to a craggy rock in the bay—and the iconic Pebble Beach Golf Links course. Though Pebble Beach is technically a separate community, it sits within Del Monte Forest.

#10. Belvedere, California

- Population: 2,309

In 1896, 33 residents voted to incorporate Belvedere as a city. The San Francisco Bay borders the town on three sides: It's technically composed of two islands and a lagoon, giving the homes here unbeatable views.

#9. Ross, California

- Population: 2,405

First incorporated in 1908, this quaint town in Marin County is run by a five-person town council and a town manager. Ross has a real small-town feel, with just two churches, three schools, and a few cultural institutions like the Marin Art and Garden Center as well as a library run by the historical society.

#8. Loyola, California

- Population: 3,564

Like the neighboring towns of Mountain View and Los Altos, Loyola is an affluent community. In December 2022, the median price buyers paid for Loyola homes was $3.8 million. Top-rated schools, luxury amenities like a country club, and its proximity to the Bay Area make Loyola an appealing—if pricey—place to live.

#7. Monte Sereno, California

- Population: 3,502

When a community began forming in what is now Monte Sereno in the early 1900s, the area was rural and agricultural. Today, you won't find any orchards, farms, or livestock, just a peaceful residential community that has been home to author John Steinbeck, painter Thomas Kinkade, and Beat poet Neal Cassady over the years.

#6. West Menlo Park, California

- Population: 3,492

This small community sits just west of Stanford University, with most of its bars, restaurants, and local businesses lining Alameda de las Pulgas. Excellent school districts make this area particularly sought after by Bay Area families.

#5. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

- Population: 3,296

A popular tourist destination in its own right, Carmel-by-the-Sea is renowned for its charming downtown, historic mission, top-notch restaurants, and stunning Carmel Beach. Some of the town's first residents were artists such as author Jack London and poet Robinson Jeffers, giving the city an intellectual bent and creative spirit.

#4. Rolling Hills, California

- Population: 1,436

This gated residential community on the Palos Verdes Peninsula covers just three square miles, but each of the 700 properties has at least one acre and is zoned for keeping horses. Nearby attractions include the Palos Verdes Art Center, the hiking and equestrian trails in the Portuguese Bend Reserve, and the architecturally significant Wayfarers Chapel designed by Lloyd Wright, the son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

#3. Yarrow Point, Washington

- Population: 1,365

Set on a peninsula in Lake Washington, Yarrow Point borders the #1 town on this list. Though the first homesteads date back to the 1880s, Yarrow Point wasn't incorporated until 1959. Nearly one-fourth of the homes here have waterfront views—but even residents who aren't so lucky can enjoy public parks like the Wetherill Nature Preserve and Road End Beach.

#2. Del Mar, California

- Population: 4,008

Another coastal destination, Del Mar's gorgeous beaches, legendary horse racing, and delightful downtown village are attractive to both visitors and prospective residents. The city hosts about 2 million visitors annually.

#1. Clyde Hill, Washington

- Population: 3,118

From some of Clyde Hill's higher elevations, you can spy views of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and the Cascade Mountain Range, in addition to Lake Washington and the Seattle skyline. The area was first settled in 1882 by Irish immigrant Patrick Downey, who farmed strawberries on his claim. Clyde Hill made national news in 1975 when its mayoral race ended in an even tie; the contenders flipped a coin to decide the race.

Friday, December 23, 2022

Committee report focus is not on demonstrators – 5 essential reads on the symbols they carried on Jan. 6

The congressional investigation into Jan. 6, 2021, focused on one man, not the masses. Al Drago/Pool Photo via AP
Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

As the final report emerges from the congressional committee investigating the insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, the focus is on the role of then-President Donald Trump and those close to him. That’s crucial information, but it leaves out another important chapter of the story.

There were thousands of people demonstrating on the streets of Washington, D.C., that day, whose actions are not recounted in detail in the congressional report. They carried a variety of political and ideological flags and signs. The Conversation asked scholars to explain what they saw – including ancient Norse images and more recent flags from U.S. history.

Here are five articles from The Conversation’s coverage, explaining what many of the symbols mean.

A man carries the Confederate battle flag in the U.S. Capitol.
A man carries the Confederate battle flag in the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, between portraits of senators who both opposed and supported slavery. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

1. The Confederate battle flag

Perhaps the most recognized symbol of white supremacy is the Confederate battle flag.

Since its debut during the Civil War, the Confederate battle flag has been flown regularly by white insurrectionists and reactionaries fighting against rising tides of newly won Black political power,” writes Jordan Brasher at Columbus State University, who has studied how the Confederacy has been memorialized.

He notes that in one photo from inside the Capitol, the flag’s history came into sharp relief as the man carrying it was standing between “the portraits of two Civil War-era U.S. senators – one an ardent proponent of slavery and the other an abolitionist once beaten unconscious for his views on the Senate floor.”

Gadsden flags fly at a Jan. 6, 2021, protest at the Capitol.
Gadsden flags fly at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

2. The yellow Gadsden flag

Another flag with a racist history is the “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. A symbol warning of self-defense, it was designed by slave owner and trader Christopher Gadsden when the American Revolution began, as Iowa State University graphic design scholar Paul Bruski writes.

Because of its creator’s history and because it is commonly flown alongside ‘Trump 2020’ flags, the Confederate battle flag and other white-supremacist flags, some may now see the Gadsden flag as a symbol of intolerance and hate – or even racism,” he explains.

It has been adopted by the tea party movement and other Republican-leaning groups, but the flag still carries the legacy, and the name, of its creator.

U.S. Capitol storming, gallows, Trump supporters
A gallows symbolizing the lynching of Jews was among the hate symbols carried as crowds stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images

3. Powerful antisemitism

Another arm of white supremacy doesn’t target Blacks. Instead, it demonizes Jewish people. Plenty of antisemitic symbols were on display during the riot, as Jonathan D. Sarna explains.

Sarna is a Brandeis University scholar of American antisemitism and describes the ways that “[c]alls to exterminate Jews are common in far-right and white nationalist circles.” That included a gallows erected outside the Capitol, evoking a disturbing element of a 1978 novel depicting the takeover of Washington, along with mass lynchings and slaughtering of Jews.

A man wearing a horned hat and displaying Norse tattoos.
A man known as Jake Angeli, now imprisoned for his role in the Capitol riot, wears a horned hat and tattoos of Norse images. Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

4. Co-opted Norse mythology

Among the most striking images of the January riot were those of a man wearing a horned hat and no shirt, displaying several large tattoos. He is known as Jake Angeli, but his full name is Jacob Chansley, and he is serving a 41-month sentence in prison for his role in the riot.

Tom Birkett, a lecturer in Old English at University College Cork in Ireland, explains that many of the symbols Chansley wore are from Norse mythology. However, he explains, “These symbols have also been co-opted by a growing far-right movement.”

Birkett traces the modern use of Norse symbols back to the Nazis and points out that they are a form of code hidden in plain sight: “If certain symbols are hard for the general public to spot, they are certainly dog whistles to members of an increasingly global white supremacist movement who know exactly what they mean.”

Rioters scale structures while flying flags outside the Capitol.
The yellow-and-red-striped flag of the defeated American-backed Republic of Vietnam flies at the U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6. Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

5. An outlier, of sorts

Another flag was prominent at the Capitol riot, one that doesn’t strictly represent white supremacy: the flag of the former independent country of South Vietnam.

But Long T. Bui, a global studies scholar at the University of California, Irvine, explains that when flown by Vietnamese Americans, many of whom support Trump, the flag symbolizes militant nationalism.

[S]ome Vietnamese Americans view their fallen homeland as an extension of the American push for freedom and democracy worldwide. I have interviewed Vietnamese American soldiers who fear American freedom is failing,” he explains.

This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives and is an update of an article previously published on Jan. 15, 2021.The Conversation

Jeff Inglis, Freelance Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Monday, November 7, 2022

What is affirmative action, anyway? 4 essential reads

Co-written with Jamaal Abdul-Alim
The Supreme Court is deciding a case on whether, and how, universities may consider an applicant’s race when making admissions decisions. AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Jamaal Abdul-Alim, The Conversation and Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

Race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions could soon be a thing of the past. At least that’s the impression many observers got after listening to oral arguments about the practice before the U.S Supreme Court.

Scholars writing for The Conversation U.S. have taken a closer look at affirmative action and how it has been seen and used in the realm of higher education.

1. Even some supporters don’t know how it works

When OiYan Poon, a race and education scholar at Colorado State University, traveled across the nation to ask Asian Americans what they knew about affirmative action, they found that even people who were part of organizations that publicly supported or opposed it didn’t quite understand how affirmative action works.

For instance, “30 out of 36 presented outdated myths” about affirmative action, she wrote. “These 30 included 13 affirmative action supporters and 17 opponents,” who talked about ideas such as “‘racial quotas,’ which were declared unconstitutional in [1978]. They also thought it involved ‘racial bonus points’ for Black and Latino applicants,” Poon found.

In fact, Poon wrote, “race-conscious admissions is now practiced through holistic review of individual applicants. Such individualized review is meant to recognize, in a limited way, how race and racism might have shaped each applicant’s perspectives and educational opportunities.”

2. Banning affirmative action has clear effects

A Black woman wearing a black graduation cap and gown is seated in between two white male college graduates.
Some researchers say graduation is less likely for Black, Hispanic and Native American students when affirmative action is outlawed. Andy Sacks via Getty Images

It’s possible to predict what could happen if the Supreme Court rules against affirmative action. As Natasha Warikoo, a Tufts University professor who studies racial equity in education, pointed out: “Since nine states already have bans on affirmative action, it’s easy to know what will happen if affirmative action is outlawed. Studies of college enrollment in those states show that enrollment of Black, Hispanic and Native American undergraduate students will decline in the long term.”

“Undergraduate enrollment is not the only area of higher education that will be affected. A ban on affirmative action will ultimately lead to fewer graduate degrees earned by Black, Hispanic and Native American students,” she wrote.

3. The difference is big

Two female students walk on the campus of UCLA.
Public universities in California cannot consider race in admissions. Mark Ralston/Getty Images

Vinay Harpalani, a scholar of discrimination at the University of New Mexico, delivered some numbers: After California banned affirmative action at its state universities, “[t]he enrollment of Black, Latino and Native American students dropped dramatically in the University of California system. For example, at UCLA, the percentage of underrepresented minorities dropped from 28% to 14% between 1995 and 1998. There was a similar drop at UC Berkeley.”

In more recent years, he reported, “The enrollment numbers have recovered, largely due to increased Latino enrollment. Currently at UCLA, 22% of the undergraduate student body is Latino and 3% is Black. But it is also important to note that the number of Latino high school graduates has more than tripled since 1997.”

4. A military case for affirmative action

A wounded white soldier is carried by a Black soldier during the Vietnam War.
A wounded soldier is carried by members of the 1st Cavalry Division near the Cambodian border during the Vietnam War. Bettmann/GettyImages

In an article explaining the point of view of 35 military officers who have asked the Supreme Court to continue to allow affirmative action, Travis Knoll, a historian at the University of North Carolina - Charlotte, looked to the nation’s – and the military’s – racial experience during the Vietnam War.

“[I]n 1962, when U.S. involvement was starting to grow in Vietnam, Black commissioned officers represented only 1.6% of the officers corps,” he wrote. “Military academies remained virtually segregated, with Black people making up less than 1% of enrollees. As a result, the number of Black officers didn’t grow much.”

That led to unrest in the ranks: “Over the next five years, the number of Black soldiers fighting and dying on the front lines grew to about 25%. Racial tensions between white and Black soldiers led to at least 300 fights in a two-year-period that resulted in 71 deaths,” Knoll wrote. “Fueling those fights was the belief among Black soldiers that the largely white officers didn’t care about their lives.”

That experience, Knoll explained, drove home to the military the idea that diversity in leadership was extremely important. “It also began the military’s use of affirmative action, including race-conscious admissions policies at service academies and in ROTC programs.”

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Jamaal Abdul-Alim, Education Editor, The Conversation and Jeff Inglis, Freelance Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

How to ensure election integrity and accuracy – 3 essential reads

A county clerk, far left, swears in a group of Nevada residents to conduct a hand count of ballots on Oct. 26, 2022. AP Photo/Gabe Stern
Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

It’s almost certain there will be questions about the integrity of the 2022 midterm elections. In fact, some concerns about machine counting have already sparked one Nevada county to seek to hand-count all ballots. Several scholars of elections have written for The Conversation U.S. about ways to ensure voting is conducted and counted fairly and accurately. It all starts with paper ballots.

1. Paper is secure

Paper ballots, including those sent by mail, are not ripe for fraud, reported election law scholar Steven Mulroy at the University of Memphis: “[H]aving a paper ballot is a key way to protect public trust in elections, allowing recounts in case machines are hacked or suffer software or hardware problems that could affect vote counting.”

Even when many people vote by mail, which Mulroy also says is a secure method of voting: “Vote-by-mail states have not seen a higher rate of election fraud cases than states with strict rules on who can vote absentee, according to a database of fraud cases compiled by the Heritage Foundation, an organization concerned about voting fraud.”

A Wisconsin voter casts a ballot ahead of primary election day in 2020, avoiding lines and finding a more convenient time to vote. AP Photo/Morry Gash

2. Paper is key

In fact, paper ballots are the best way to ensure the votes are counted correctly, wrote Herbert Lin, a Stanford cybersecurity scholar:

If hacked, an electronic voting machine cannot be trusted to count votes accurately. In an election conducted with paper ballots, the ballots themselves can be examined and recounted.”

“The idea of recounting electronically cast votes is meaningless,” he wrote. Without something physically marked by each individual voter, “[a]ny problems … would be impossible to fix, calling into public question the integrity of the whole process and the validity of any results.”

Recounting very close races is not enough to ensure election integrity. AP Photo/Ben Finley

3. Manual counts aren’t necessary

But using paper ballots doesn’t mean counting has to happen by hand.

Computer scientist Eugene Vorobeychik at Vanderbilt University has studied ways to count votes by machine – which is much faster than by hand – while still ensuring accuracy. Essentially, he said, paper ballots can help confirm – or not – a vote tally in the event of an audit.

“[A]fter the election,” he wrote, “auditors can compare electronic voting results to the results documented in the paper trail. If they don’t agree, then something has gone wrong – either accidentally or as a result of outside interference – and a newly verified tally of the actual paper votes can be used to determine the winner.”

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Jeff Inglis, Freelance Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Who is representing you? Federal and state governments are more White and male than the populations they serve

Published in The Emancipator (a joint venture between the Boston Globe and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research)

The nation is home to populations that are quite diverse in racial and ethnic backgrounds, and they are generally evenly split along gender lines. However, the governments that serve them are led by people who are disproportionately White and male, according to an analysis by The Emancipator.

The charts and maps below paint a picture of a country whose top government officials do not often share racial, ethnic, or gender-identity characteristics with those they serve. These representations are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, and federal and state executives, legislators, and judges.

“There’s a clear descriptive value in seeing people who look like you in public institutions. Namely, you feel like there’s the capacity for someone to represent you,” says Bridgett A. King, an associate professor and director of the Master of Public Administration Program at Auburn University. “You feel like it’s a space where people like you, across whatever demographic marker we’re using, are welcome and there’s opportunities. So there’s that, the optics.”

Shared identity can extend benefits beyond race, according to Spencer Piston, an associate professor of political science at Boston University. For example, he says, “Legislators of poorer backgrounds are more likely than rich legislators to look out for poor people’s interests.”

Our federal representatives don’t reflect us – especially in the Senate

At the federal level, the U.S. House of Representatives most closely resembles the United States as a whole in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. Just shy of two-thirds of House members identify as White; 12.5% of them are Black; and 9.5% are Latino, according to the Congressional Research Service. The U.S. Senate, on the other hand, is the least representative of America’s racial diversity with 83% of its members identifying as White, 3% as Black, and 7% as Latino.

The federal judiciary is similarly split, with the U.S. Supreme Court having similar ratios as the United States overall, though without any Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, Indigenous people, or multiracial members. But the overwhelming majority of the 1,413 sitting federal judges identify as White, according to the Federal Judicial Center.

Forty-seven of those federal judges are of Asian American or Pacific Islander descent; and four are Native Americans: Diane Joyce Humetewa of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona, Lauren Jennifer King of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Frank Howell Seay of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma, and Sunshine Suzanne Sykes of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The top level of the executive branch is split between a White man, President Joe Biden, and a multiracial woman, Vice President Kamala Harris, who has both Black and Asian American heritage.

Some state governments reflect their state’s diversity, others fall far short

States’ executive branches are overwhelmingly White, with just three governors (Hawaii, New Mexico, and Oklahoma) identifying as having backgrounds other than White.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hawaii’s legislature is the least White, with just 22% of its members identifying with that background, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Vermont and North Dakota are served by legislators who are 98% White. The Whitest state in the nation is Maine, where 96% of its lawmakers are White. Even so, those states’ legislatures are relatively representative of their majority-White constituencies.

Mississippi’s lawmakers are also relatively representative of their population: 57% White, 27% Black, and 14% other races in a legislature serving a population that is 56% White and 37% Black.

Starkly unrepresentative legislatures exist in Alaska, Delaware, and Oklahoma, where White lawmakers are much more prevalent than White constituents. In Delaware, a population that is just 61.5% White, residents are served by a legislature that is 85.9% White. That leaves a lot of people who may not find their interests, experiences, or needs shared or understood by those who hold power.

When it comes to judges at the state level, it’s a little more complicated, in particular because reliable data from the National Center for State Courts is only available for 25 states. Hawaii is again the least White with 21.8% of its judges identifying as such, 37.2% identifying as Asian American, and 20.5% identifying as Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander. At the other end of the spectrum is New Hampshire, where 100% of judges identify as White.

Majority-female nation, led mostly by men

The overall national population is slightly more than half female, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. But all three branches of the federal government are more male than the population. The Senate is the most male-dominated, with 76% of its members identifying as male, according to the Congressional Research Service. As the first female vice president in U.S. history, Harris makes the top of the executive branch an even gender split. The U.S. Supreme Court is majority male, with four of the nine justices being women.

States’ executive branches are male-dominated, with just nine governorships held by women as of September 2022.

The legislatures of Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming have an overwhelming male presence. More than 80% of the legislators from those states are men, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. Nine state legislative branches are relatively evenly split: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington have male majorities, but women account for more than 40% of those lawmakers. Only Nevada has a majority-female legislature, with 61.9% of its members identifying as women.

When it comes to the judicial branch, limited data obscures the full picture. But what is available shows Nevada as the most equitable, with half of the judges being female, according to the National Center for State Courts. Alaska, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, and Oregon are relatively equitable, with less than 60% of their judges identifying as male. At the other end of the spectrum, in Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and New Hampshire more than 70% of the judges are men.

King acknowledges that shared identity isn’t always a clincher in achieving an individual’s hoped-for policy goals. But, she adds: “In the context of the United States, one of the persistent and long-lasting markers of identity is race. So even if it’s a Black person who is conservative who doesn’t represent me, the presence of racial and ethnic minorities in positions of power is important for democratic representation and governance.”

Jeff Inglis is a Boston-based editor, writer and data journalist who has covered politics, technology, science and culture in various parts of the U.S., as well as New Zealand and Antarctica.