2017 Iowa Legislature

State legislators listen to then-Gov. Terry Branstad’s Condition of the State address in January in the House chamber at the Iowa Capitol. While Boomers dominate the makeup of the Iowa Legislature, minorities remain under-represented in the Iowa Capitol, even after their numbers doubled this year.

DES MOINES — So you say you’re an Iowa state lawmaker.

OK, Boomer.

Baby Boomers comprise more than half of the Iowa Legislature and far outnumber any other generation, according to state lawmakers’ demographic information and generational breakdowns as defined by the Pew Research Center.

While Boomers dominate the makeup of the Iowa Legislature, minorities remain under-represented in the Iowa Capitol, even after their numbers doubled this year.

The 2021 session of the Iowa Legislature begins Monday.

The elections of this past November brought some new blood to the Iowa Legislature — 21 new members, including 13 in the House and eight in the Senate — giving the statehouse a new look.

The following figures are based on demographic information for all 149 members of Iowa’s 89th General Assembly, which will serve for the next two years.

The 150th and final member will be elected later this month to fill a seat in the Iowa Senate vacated by former Sen. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, who in November was elected to Congress.

AGE

Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, continue to outnumber any other generation among Iowa state lawmakers: they comprise more than half of all legislators, including 53% in the House and 47% in the Senate.

Generation X is the closest to challenging the Boomers’ majority: those born between 1965 and 1980 make up 29% of the House and 43% of the Senate.

Bookending the generational spectrum, Iowa has three members of the Silent Generation (born between 1928 and 1945) and two members of the youngest generation, Gen Z (born after 1996).

The oldest state lawmaker is 80-year-old Sen. Julian Garrett, a Republican from Indianola.

The youngest is 22-year-old Rep. Carter Nordman, a Republican from Adel.

The average age of Iowa’s state lawmakers is just shy of 55, and more than a quarter are grandparents.

DIVERSITY

The Iowa Legislature will be twice as racially and ethnically diverse as it was during the previous two years, although it did not take much to raise that bar. The number of minority state lawmakers doubled from just four to eight serving in the current Iowa Legislature, all in the Iowa House.

The Iowa Senate remains 100% white.

That leaves Iowa minorities under-represented in their state capitol: just 5% of Iowa state lawmakers are non-white, while three times that — roughly 15% — of Iowa’s population is non-white, according to U.S. Census data.

In the Iowa House there are six Black members and one Asian-American member, plus the Iowa Legislature’s first-ever Latino member, Mark Cisneros, a Republican from Muscatine.

Of those minority members, five are Democrats and three are Republicans.

All eight minority members are in leadership positions on legislative committees.

While Iowa has seen a boom of female candidates elected to statewide and federal offices over the past few election cycles, the progress toward gender balance in the Iowa Legislature has been much slower.

Since 2014, Iowa has elected its first female U.S. Senator, U.S. Representative, and governor. And after the 2020 elections, Iowa’s Congressional delegation is majority female, with four women and two men.

But women comprise just 29% of the Iowa Legislature, including 31% in the House and 24% in the Senate.

While Republicans were the first to elect an Iowa woman as U.S. Senator and governor, Democrats have fared far better in progressing toward gender balance at the statehouse.

Women make up 47% of Democratic state lawmakers and just 17% of Republicans.

For the second consecutive two-year cycle, House Democrats start with a majority female caucus, with 21 women and 20 men.

PROFESSIONS

In perhaps the most on-brand and least-surprising count, 1 in 5 Iowa state lawmakers is a farmer, the most common profession among them.

There are 13 farmers in the Senate, and 12 of them are Republicans. Nearly 39% of all Senate Republicans are farmers.

Close behind are businesspeople and other professionals, who comprise 17% of state lawmakers. Another 11% are business owners.

The next-most populous groups include 20 retired state lawmakers, 15 who work in education, and 10 attorneys.

EDUCATION

A vast majority — more than 85% — of state lawmakers has at least some education from a four-year college, and another 7% have a community college degree or trade school certificate.

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