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In Cities Battling a Pandemic and Racial Injustice, A Power Shift Is Happening

To find out if our cities are governed by officials who reflect the people they serve, we studied the race and gender of elected leaders in America’s 100 largest cities, and discovered an unprecedented groundswell in reflective democracy.

  • Compared to 2016, city leaders are less likely to be white men
  • Since 2016, people of color increased their share of elected offices in 58 of our 100 largest cities
  • Women of color are driving the change, increasing their share of elected offices by 46%
  • Yet grave imbalances persist: In most cities, women and people of color still are not reflected in government

In Atlanta and elsewhere, mayors who are women and people of color fight to protect the health of their constituents – only to find powerful white male governors standing in their way. As the COVID pandemic shines a light on the life-and-death stakes of the demographics of power, our report exposes the tensions between the status quo of white male political dominance, and the reflective momentum building in America’s cities.

(Want the data? Access the Complete Data Set and Summary Reports.)

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Reviewing voter files and other publicly accessible data, we tracked 1,180 elected city officials including mayors, city council members, city attorneys, clerks, comptrollers, coroners, public defenders, surveyors, and treasurers. We were able to identify the race and gender of 99% of the elected city officials in our dataset.

This analysis is built on top of the Ballot Information Project and Governance Project datasets maintained by the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL). Race and gender data for candidates and elected officials have been aggregated since 2014 by CTCL in partnership with the Reflective Democracy Campaign.

The 100 most populous cities in the United States are taken from the 2010 U.S. Census. On average, the 100 most populous cities have 12 elected officials each. Total number of elected officials varies widely by city: New York City has 55 elected officials, while others, such as Portland, OR, have as few as five.

Please note that in the report content, percentage values are rounded up and may not add up to 100%.