Who Represents America, Then (1972)
|ethnicity & gender||net worth (2016)|
|1. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA)||white male||$283.3M|
|2. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT)||white male||$135.7M|
|3. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO)||Jewish male; LGBT||$122.6M|
|4. Rep. Dave Trott (R-MI)||white male||$119.1M|
|5. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX)||white male||$113.0M|
|6. Rep. John Delaney (D-MD)||white male||$92.6M|
|7. Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA)||white male||$90.2M|
|8. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL)||white male||$73.9M|
|9. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)||Jewish male||$70.0M|
|10. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)||Jewish female||$58.5M|
|11. Rep. Tom Rooney (R-FL)||white male||$55.3M|
|12. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN)||white male||$50.1M|
|13. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY)||white male||$43.5M|
|14. Rep. Diane Black (R-TN)||white female||$38.0M|
|15. Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI)||white male||$37.7M|
|16. Rep. James B. Renacci (R-OH)||white male||$34.4M|
|17. Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA)||white male||$32.0M|
|18. Rep. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-VA)||white male||$31.2M|
|19. Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ)||white male||$30.0M|
|20. Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA)||white female||$28.4M|
|21. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ)||white male||$28.0M|
|22. Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX)||white male||$27.7M|
|23. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA)||Asian-American male||$27.0M|
|24. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO)||white female||$26.9M|
|25. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN)||white male||$23.1M|
|26. Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL)||white male||$22.6M|
|27. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA)||white male||$18.7M|
|28. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC)||white male||$18.3M|
|29. Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)||white male||$17.9M|
|30. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)||white female||$16.0M|
|31. Sen. David Perdue (R-GA)||white male||$15.8M|
|32. Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID)||white male||$15.6M|
|33. Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL)||Jewish male||$14.9M|
|34. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)||white male||$14.3M|
|35. Rep. Earl L. Carter (R-GA)||white male||$13.2M|
|36. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX)||white male||$13.1M|
|37. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN)||white male||$12.3M|
|38. Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA)||white male||$11.7M|
|39. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI)||white male||$11.1M|
|40. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI)||white male||$11.0M|
|41. Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-NY)||Jewish female||$10.9M|
|42. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)||white female||$10.8M|
|43. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)||white male||$10.4M|
In addition to the 35 superrich white men, who contribute substantially to the overwhelming white domination of Congress in terms of wealth, the seven white women were Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), ranked at #10, with an estimated net worth at $58.5 million; Diane Black (R-TN), #14, $38 million; Suzan DelBene (D-WA), #20, $28.4 million; Claire McCaskill (D-MO), #24, $26.9 million; Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), #30, $16 million; Nita Lowey (D-NY) #41, $10.9 million; and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), #42, $10.8 million.
Five of the seven followed the same route to their superrich status: marriage to a wealthy man. They grew up in families in which the parents were professionals (for example, physicians, business executives, and a few were local politicians), they attended either good suburban high schools or prep schools (one went to Choate), and then they attended either elite colleges like Stanford or the flagship public university in their state. Though they lived comfortably in early adulthood, , at least four of them made what Mills called "the big jump" from relative privilege to real wealth when they married wealthy men. Feinstein (#10), for example, grew up in San Francisco, the daughter of a surgeon, and she attended Stanford. Her third husband, Richard Blum, is a very successful investment banker, the chairman and President of Blum Capital. McCaskill's (#24) father was the state Insurance Commissioner in Missouri, and her mother was the first woman elected to the city council in Columbia, MO. Her second husband is a wealthy real estate developer who specializes in affordable housing — she owns more than $20 million in his company. Pelosi's (#30) father was a Democratic congressman and Mayor of Baltimore, so she, too, grew up comfortably. Her superrich status results from the money she derives from her husband's interests. He owns and operates Financial Leasing Services, a California real estate and venture capital firm. Lowey (#41) grew up in the Bronx, and attended the Bronx High School of Science and then Mt. Holyoke College. Her husband co-founded a firm that specializes in securities and merger-related litigation, and, according to Roll Call, most of the assets that she disclosed are his, "including at least $4 million invested in half a dozen different wealth management enterprises."
Suzanne DelBene (#20) partly fits this same pattern, but she seems to have made the big jump even without the help of her wealthy husband. She grew up with privilege, the daughter of an airline pilot, attending Choate and then Reed College, with an MBA from the University of Washington. She went to work for Microsoft in the 1980s, where she rose through the corporate ranks, and she then launched two successful internet startups. Therefore, her wealth derived from her own rise through Microsoft and her entrepreneurial successes, though she did meet her husband at Microsoft, and he, too, became rich while working there.
The only real outlier among the seven white superrich women in terms of the path she took to wealth is Diane Black (#14), the first in her family to earn a college degree. She went to a community college and then to Belmont University, a Christian college in Nashville, where she became a nurse. While working as a nurse, in 1990 she and her husband started a company that provided drug tests for athletes and corporations. She continued to work as a registered nurse until 1998, when she ran successfully as a Republican for the Tennessee House of Representatives. She and her husband made millions when they sold the company to a private equity firm. She was elected to Congress in 2010. (A very conservative Trump supporter, she gained public attention when she claimed that pornography was a "big part of the root cause" of school shootings. In 2018, she ran for Governor of Tennessee.)
The superrich Asian American who joined the other 42 superrich white men and women was Ro Khanna (D-CA), an Indian American who, like most of the seven superrich white women, grew up in comfortable economic circumstances and married into bigger money. Khanna's father, a chemical engineer, came to the United States to do graduate work at the University of Michigan. Khanna holds a B.A. from the University of Chicago, and a law degree from Yale. His wife, Ritu Ahuja Khanna, is the daughter of Monte Ahuja, the chairman of Mura Holdings, and the founder and CEO of Transmaxx (now Transstar Industries). The business school at Cleveland State University is named after Monte Ahuja (the Monte Ahuja College of Business) as is the school's medical center (the Ahuja Medical Center).
What about the others, those who were not superrich, some of whom provide diversity to the 115th Congress in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and sexual identity. How did they do in terms of reported wealth, and what are their party affiliations? Table 2 breaks these data down separately for white males in Congress and for those in the groups who have, over the last forty years, added diversity to the power elite (Jews, white women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and LGBT individuals).
|White males (n=362)||$576,510|
|White females (n=67)||$972,021|
|African Americans (n=49)||$90,011|
|Asian Americans (n=14)||$949,019|
As can be seen, the range for the median net worth for these six groups was considerable. It was over half a million dollars for four of the six groups: for the 30 Jews, it was $1,136,062; for the 67 white women it was $972,021; for the 14 Asian Americans it was $949,019; and for the 362 white males it was $576,510.
However, it was a good bit lower for the other three groups. For the 49 African Americans it was $90,011, for the seven LGBT individuals it was $91,004, and for the 39 Latinos it was $39,048.
The most striking thing about the party affiliation data in Table 2 is that the large majority of white males in Congress are Republican (69%), but in all of the other groups the large majority are Democrats (64% of the white women, 90% of the Jews, 94% of the African Americans, 76% of the Latinos, 93% of the Asian Americans, and all seven of the LGBT individuals). Notably, there was no statistically significant difference between Republican and Democratic white males in terms of their overall wealth — the mean net worth for the 252 White male Republicans was $5,944,252, and the mean for the 109 white male Democrats was $5,685,089.
Although it may seem surprising, given that even using this conservative estimate more than one third of those in Congress have a net worth greater than one million dollars, it is also the case that for 124 members (23%), their liabilities were greater than their assets, and therefore their net worth was a negative number. Looking at what percentage of each group had debts that were greater than their assets (see Table 3) reveals, yet again, that the African Americans, Latinos and LGBT individuals are poor cousins compared to those in the other groups. (Keep in mind once again that the tabulations do not include the ownership of residences, which might mean these members of Congress may not actually be in debt, but they are certainly less wealthy than their colleagues whose net worth was positive).
negative net worth
|White males||21%||77 of 362|
|Jews||20%||6 of 30|
|White females||15%||10 of 67|
|African Americans||41%||20 of 49|
|Latinos||42%||16 of 38|
|Asian Americans||7%||1 of 14|
|LGBT||29%||2 of 7|
Based on the median net worth, or based on the percentage of members of Congress who had negative net worth, it is clear that the African Americans, the LGBT individuals, and the Latinos have far less net worth than those in the other groups. In that respect, they are probably much more similar in their class backgrounds and in their life experiences to their constituencies than those in the other groups who have grown up in and attained much more privileged economic circumstances.
Let's look at each group a bit more carefully, in the same order that we use in Diversity in the Power Elite.
Although this was not the case when we began doing research on diversity in the power elite, Jews now are well-represented in Congress. In 1975, there were only ten Jews in the House, mostly from districts in New York, and there were three Jews in the Senate. As of 2017, there were 22 Jews in the House (5.1%), and eight in the Senate (8%). Given that only about 2% of the national population is Jewish, Jews are now over-represented in Congress.
The Jews in Congress fit with the general finding that Jews have become economically successful. The list of 43 who qualified as superrich (reported net worth of more than $10.4 million) included five Jews: Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), who is also openly gay, was #3 on the list, with holdings of at least $122.6 million; Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) was #9 on the list with at least $70 million; Dianne Feinstein was #10, with at least $58.5 million; Representative Brad Schneider (D-IL), was #33 at $14.9 million, and Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) was #41 at $10.9 million. On the other hand, six of the 30 Jews (20%) reported negative net worth.
It is notable that the figures for net worth in Table 2 are higher for white women than they are for white men. Historically, like people of color, white women have been underrepresented in the halls of corporate, political, and military power, but, as we and others have shown, over the years they have made slow but steady gains in all three areas of institutional power. For example, the percentage of female corporate directors of Fortune 500 corporations increased, slowly but steadily, from less than 10 percent in 1996 to about 20 percent in 2017. In striking contrast, after an increase in the early years of this century, the percentages of Latino and African American corporate directors leveled off or decreased. We have argued that the similarity in class background of many white women directors has made them more familiar to the mostly white male corporate directors on corporate boards. It seems plausible that they have been more willing to select women who were like them not only in class background, but also in terms of race and education, that is, people who were familiar to them and reminded them of their wives and daughters, than to select people of color.
Similarly, there has been a steady increase in the number of women in the Senate and the House, though they are still very much underrepresented. In 1996, 11% of the Representatives in the House were women, and in 2017, the figure was up to 19%. In 1996, there were nine women in the Senate (therefore, 9%) and in 2017 there were 23. These figures, now accompanied by the Roll Call data on net worth that show that the white women are even wealthier than the white men in Congress, indicate, that when it comes to diversity in the power elite, white women are doing better than those in some of the other groups.
None of the 49 African Americans in Congress reported a net worth that put them in the superrich category, but five, all of whom are Representatives, not Senators, reported a net worth of more than $1 million: Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE), at $4.6 million; Al Green (D-TX), at $2.4 million; Donald McKechin (D-VA), at $2.4 million; Joyce Beatty (D-OH), at $1.5 million; and Al Lawson (D-FL) at $1.5 million. As noted above, 20 of the 49 African Americans, or 40%, reported a negative net worth.
The African Americans in Congress, therefore, are much less wealthy than most of their counterparts and this is part of a larger and troubling pattern when it comes to representation (and clout) in the halls of power. As we concluded in the most recent edition of Diversity in the Power Elite: "The number of African Americans in the corporate elite (both corporate directors and CEOs), in the political elite, (cabinets and Congress), and in the military elite has leveled off or even declined."
As was true for the African Americans, none of the 38 Latinos qualified as superrich. Five Latinos, however, reported a net worth of more than $1 million (all are Representatives, not Senators): Vincente Gonzalez (D-TX), $6.9 million; William Flores (R-TX), $2.8 million; Lou Correa (D-CA), $2.8 million; Filemon Vela (D-TX), $2.0 million; and Juan Vargas (D-CA), $1.7 million.
Although some, like the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, have included Flores as a Latino, it is quite a stretch. He does not claim to be one, nor is he a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. On his father's side, his ancestors came from Spain in 1725, which is the basis for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials labeling him a Latino. When asked about his heritage, Flores had this to say: "My family came from Spain in 1725, and if people want to consider me Hispanic, they can, but I didn't advertise that way, and I'm an American first."
With hesitation, I have included Flores as a Latino, but whether he is included or not, the 39 Latinos (or the 38 if we exclude him) are the least wealthy of the groups in terms of median net worth, and in terms of those who reported a negative net worth (42%).
The only Asian American on the superrich list, as has been noted, is Ro Khanna. Six of the other 13 Asian Americans, however, reported a net worth of more than $1 million. They are a heterogeneous group in terms of ethnicity, geography, and place of birth: Ami Bera (D-CA), an Indian American, born in Los Angeles, at $4.0 million; Stephanie Murphy (D-CA), a Vietnamese American born in Vietnam (her name at birth: Dang Thi Ngoc Dung), at $2.4 million; Judy Chu (D-CA), a Chinese American born in Los Angeles, at $1.8 million; Mazie Hirono (D-CA), a Japanese American born in Japan, at $1.4 million; Colleen Hanabusa (D-HA), a Japanese American born in Hawaii, at $1.2 million; and Ted Lieu (D-CA), a Chinese American born in Taiwan, at $1.2 million. (All are representatives except for Hirono, who is in the Senate). Only one of the 14 Asian Americans reported a negative net worth. As noted, the median net worth for this group was $949,019, less than the Jews and the white women, but more than the white men (and way more than the African Americans, the Latinos, or the LGBT individuals).
Two of the seven LGBT individuals are Jewish men. One is extremely wealthy, and the other has a net worth barely above zero. The extremely wealthy gay Jewish male is Jared Polis, the third wealthiest person on the Roll Call list (he has been a Representative in Colorado since 2009, and is now the Democratic nominee for Governor of that state). The other gay Jewish male in Congress is Representative David Cicillini (D-RI) whose reported minimum liabilities ($0.8 million) were almost the same as his reported minimum assets ($0.8 million), giving him a net worth of $17,000. The other five (one Senator, Tammy Baldwin, D-IL, and four representatives) include Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), at $268,000, Baldwin (D-IL), at $167,000, Mark Takano (D-CA), at $91,000, Kyrsten Sinema, (D-AZ), with a negative net worth of -$15,000, and Mark Pocan (D-WI) with a negative net worth of -$250,000. They obviously bring diversity to the Congress in terms of sexual orientation, and in terms of financial assets.
Whites (81%) and men (80%) continue to dominate Congress, as they did back in 1972, but there is much more diversity than there was then in terms of the percentage of women (from 2% in 1972 to 19% in 2016), African Americans (from 2.4% in 1972 to 9.2% in 2016), Latinos (from 1.3% in 1972 to 7.2% in 2016), Asian Americans (from 1% in 1972 to 2.6% in 2016), and openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual people (none in 1972 to 1.1% in 2016). At the same time, far more members enter Congress with personal wealth than was the case previously, and seven of the 43 who we have considered "superrich" are women (16%) and one is an Asian American. Those in the other three groups we have looked at — African Americans, Latinos, and LGBT individuals — are far less likely to be wealthy than those in the other groups and in that respect are probably much more "representative" of their constituents.
Why does this matter? First, as social scientists have shown for many years now, we know that a person's background, including class background, affects all kinds of behaviors — including voting behavior. I wrote the following in 1972, and it still holds true:
Social scientists have shown that social background affects whether or not you shoplift or use LSD, who you date and marry (and how happy that marriage is likely to be), how you vote, how many children you have (and how you go about raising them), what your values are, how happy you are , how long you're likely to live — even how large you think the circumference of a quarter is. On the basis of these and other studies, it is safe to assume that American men who spend four years of their lives at Yale rooting against Harvard and dating women from Smith and Vassar see the world very differently than American men who are migrant laborers and speak only Spanish. Each person is unique, but a shared background with one group sets one apart from many other groups, often making it difficult to appreciate other needs and viewpoints.
But secondly, who is in Congress and how much money they do or do not have matters because diversity can be used as a smokescreen, suggesting real change when the change has been quite minimal. In this case, the fact that there is more diversity in Congress should not mask the fact that the Congress is still dominated by white men. The fact that more of the members of Congress are now rich than used to be the case may be a problem in itself, but it is also notable that most of those who are extremely wealthy are white men.
So, too, can the apparent diversity in Congress cloud the fact that almost all the diversity is in one of the two major parties. The 287 Republicans in Congress are mostly white men (87.4%), with some white women (8.4%), and their ranks include only three African Americans (one of whom is a biracial Texan, and another is an immigrant from Haiti), nine Latinos (one of them, William Flores, is, as I have noted, barely Latino if that, and five of the others are Cuban Americans), and two Jews. In striking contrast, even though white men make up the biggest block of the 241 Democrats in Congress, they are not a majority — only 45%. The other 55% include 43 white women (17.8%), 46 African Americans (19.1%), 28 Latinos (12%), and all 14 Asian Americans (5.8%). Moreover, only two of the Jews in Congress are Republicans, and 27 are Democrats (one, Bernie Sanders, is an Independent), and all seven of those who are openly gay, lesbian or bisexual are Democrats, so the contrast between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to diversity is even more pronounced.
Despite the increased overall diversity in Congress, it may be that the Republican-controlled Congress will nevertheless continue to be a major outpost for White Christian domination in a United States that will be ruled by the predominantly Republican super-rich, comfortably wealthy, and middle class whites, who have their strongest base among middle-income and white voters in the South, the Southwest, the Great Plains, and the Rocky Mountains. If that proves to be the case, then the diversity in Congress made possible by the Democratic Party will matter for very little.
 Thanks to David Hawkings and Roll Call magazine for providing me with the data set that included the net worth for the members of the 115th Congress.
 Richard Zweigenhaft, "Who Represents America?" In New Directions in Power Structure Research, a special issue of The Insurgent Sociologist, 5 (3), 1975, p. 119 and p. 128.
 Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff, Diversity in the Power Elite: Ironies and Unfulfilled Promises (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2018); see pp. 36-38, 75-80, 116-124, 146-149, 165-170, 192-193.
 G. William Domhoff, Who Rules America? The Triumph of the Corporate Rich. Seventh Edition (New York: McGraw Hill, 2014), p. 156.
 In each of the three editions of Diversity in the Power Elite, we have separate chapters on Jews, women, African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and LGBT individuals. In each of those chapters, following the framework laid out by C. Wright Mills in The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956), we look at those who are in what Mills described as the corporate elite, the political elite, and the military elite, but, unlike Mills, we also include data and analyses based on those in Congress and those who sit on the Supreme Court.
 So, too, did David Hawkings and Roll Call use medians, not means. Four of the House seats were vacant at the time that Roll Call did its study, and one Senate seat had been filled by Tina Smith, the replacement for Al Franken, but she had not yet submitted her information; therefore, the total number of members analyzed is 530, not 535.
David Hawkings, "Wealth of Congress: Richer Than Ever, but Mostly at the Very Top," Roll Call, posted Feb. 27, 2018, https://www.rollcall.com/
 See Mills, p. 110, for his comments on "the big jump."
 See Richard L. Zweigenhaft and G. William Domhoff, Jews in the Protestant Establishment, New York: Praeger, 1982
 Zweigenhaft and Domhoff, 2018, 126.
See Michael W. Shapiro, National organization touting Flores' Hispanic roots, Waco Tribune-Herald, November 10, 2010, https://www.wacotrib.com/
Michael Shapiro, National Organization Touting Flores' Hispanic Roots, Waco Tribune-Herald, Nov. 10, 2010; https://www.wacotrib.com/
 Zweigenhaft, "Who Represents America," p. 119