December 1, 2022

State Innovation Exchange Releases New Report On the State of State Legislatures



Natalia Garzon: / 917-257-9793

State Innovation Exchange Releases New Report On the State of State Legislatures

New SiX Report Shares Guiding Principles for Transforming State Legislatures

Although state legislatures introduced nine times as many bills as Congress did in the 2019-2021 session and were three times more productive, passing 1 in 5 bills introduced, a new State Innovation Exchange (SiX) report shows that state legislatures continue to be under-resourced, with state legislators who are underpaid compared to the median household income in their states, and the slow progress in building state legislatures that are representative of state populations. 

State Government of the People: SiX Principles for Transforming State Legislatures provides a comprehensive review of state legislatures and state legislators across the U.S. The report analyzes how well-resourced and productive state legislatures are as policymaking institutions and how state legislatures compare with their state populations, looking at demographic data collected between 2020-2022 including gender, race and ethnicity, LGBTQ+, New Americans, generational groups, and educational attainment.  

Key findings from the report include:

  • The vast majority of state legislators are paid less than the median household income in their states. The average annual salary for legislators was $34,074, or just 50% of the average state median household income across all 50 states.
  • The average member of Congress has eight times as many staff as the average state legislator. On average, there are 36.7 staff per member of Congress, compared to 4.4 staff per state legislator. 
  • Black, Indigenous, and other people of color are underrepresented in the average state legislature and across all types of legislatures. 
  • Women represent only 31.1% of all state legislators.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 state lawmakers are white, and white lawmakers have similar levels of overrepresentation across full-time, hybrid, and part-time legislatures.

The report also notes that Millennials are the most underrepresented age group (5.5%) in state legislatures, while Baby Boomers (26.5%) are overrepresented in over half of all state legislatures. And legislators with graduate or professional degrees are overrepresented in state legislatures by over 200%, while legislators with less than a bachelor’s degree (2.6%) are severely underrepresented in every state legislature.

“We pay so much attention to national races and our members of Congress that we fail to recognize the work of state legislators who provide a critical connection from the halls of state government to our local communities,” said the Hon. Jessie Ulibarri, co-executive director of SiX. “This new report further demonstrates how state legislatures are woefully under-resourced and aren’t representative of the people they serve. It’s time we modernize our powerful state legislatures to build a participatory democracy that realizes a future where all of us can share power.”

State Government of the People was written prior to the 2022 midterm elections, which resulted in some notable gains for representation in state legislatures. All across the country, states celebrated historic wins for Latinx, LGTBTQ+, and Muslim state lawmakers, while Colorado joined Nevada to become the second state to have a majority-woman legislature in the nation. 

The report includes “SiX Principles for Transforming State Legislatures,” a values-based framework for transforming state legislatures into more democratic institutions where we all have a say in the decisions that affect our families and communities. The SiX principles aspire for state legislatures that are inclusive, accountable and transparent, responsive and effective, accessible and collaborative, equity-focused, and innovative.

State Government of the People also shares examples of how state legislatures have created and enacted policies that can bring us into this future. Examples highlighted include bills to provide childcare stipends to legislators with children or dependents, establish collective bargaining rights for legislative staff, adopt participatory budgeting processes, and require racial equity impact statements. 

“Legislators should be reflective of all people, but representation is not enough,” said Neha Patel, co-executive director of SiX. “It’s time to return state legislatures to the hands of the people and to find new ways of governing in which our legislators hold power with the people who elect them. We must seek a transformation that reimagines American governance at all levels that centers around people, especially the people who have been excluded from and exploited by public policy.”


State Innovation Exchange (SiX) was founded as a nonpartisan, national resource and strategy center for state legislators working to move bold public policy that builds an equitable, resilient, and prosperous country for all. SiX provides state-based technical assistance, public policy research, skill and issue-based trainings, communications and polling support, convenings, and strategy sessions with state legislators, power builders, and policy advocates on a wide array of public policy topics.

More on Report Methodology: State Government of the People was written prior to the 2022 midterm elections. Due to the limited availability of demographic data on state legislators, this publication reports data largely collected between 2020-2022:

Race and ethnicity (2020)

Gender, race, and ethnicity (2022)

LGBTQ+ identity (2022)

New American status (2020)

Generation (2020)

Educational attainment (2020)

See our Methodology Appendix for more information and a full list of sources.

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