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America's 'Radical Elders' continue their work for fairness, justice; SCOTUS upholds law disarming domestic abusers; Workplace adoption benefits help families, communities; Report examines barriers to successful post-prison re-entry in NC.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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A Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival while rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town and prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands.

NM's working-class folks are MIA among state legislators

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Wednesday, May 8, 2024   

Tracking down a New Mexico state lawmaker from the working class is like hunting for a needle in a haystack, a new study showed.

The share of U.S. Republicans and Democrats from working-class jobs who went on to hold seats in state legislatures remained below 2% last year. The figure is compared to potential voters, where about 50% hold manual labor jobs in construction or service industries or in clerical jobs.

Nicholas Carnes, political scientist at Duke University and co-author of the report, explained the consequences of the disconnect.

"If you're a working-class person and you go to your state legislature, your general assembly, you are almost never going to find someone who has significant experience in that exact same kind of job," Carnes pointed out.

New Mexico is one of almost a dozen states without any lawmakers who have recently held working-class jobs. Carnes noted it is a bipartisan issue, with only about 1% of Republicans and 2% of Democrats in state legislatures coming from working-class occupations.

Because people who run for office are overwhelmingly drawn from America's professional classes, Carnes added it is unlikely they have experienced the kinds of economic hardships working-class people might encounter. He emphasized state legislatures make consequential decisions and if you have an entire economic class of people not in the room when policy decisions are being made, it can determine the kinds of problems addressed and the solutions proposed.

"If no one in the room has been on what we used to call food stamps, is the $15-a-month reduction a big deal? No, it's not a big deal," Carnes pointed out. "Well, yeah, it actually is a big deal for some people."

In 2023, study data showed Alaska led the nation with 5% of its state legislature drawn from occupations classified as working-class jobs.

Support for this reporting was provided by The Carnegie Corporation of New York.


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