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Social background of Members of Parliament 1979-2015

Published Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Following General Election 2015, 29% of MPs are female, 53% are over 50 years old, 6% are from non-white backgrounds and one-third are from fee-paying schools. The share of manual workers has fallen from 16% in 1979 to 3% in 2015. This note examines the social background of MPs from 1979 to 2015.

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This briefing paper provides data on the gender, age, ethnicity and occupational and educational backgrounds of Members of Parliament elected at the 2015 General Election and how this has changed since 1979:

  • After the 2015 General Election there are 191 women MPs (29% of all MPs). This is the highest number ever. In 1979 there were 19 women MPs, 3% of the total.
  • 53% (343) of those elected in 2015 were aged over 50. In the current Parliament the proportion of MPs aged 70 and over increased to nearly 4% (24). The number of MPs aged under 30 declined to 13 (2.0%), compared to 15 (2.3%) in 2010.
  • Following the 2015 election, 6% of Members of Parliament are from non-white backgrounds. This compares with 13% of the UK population from a non-white background.
  • Since 1979, the number of MPs who had been manual workers decreased from around 16% of all MPs in 1979 to 3% in 2015. The proportion of MPs with a background in one of the ‘traditional’ professions has also fallen, from 45% in 1979 to 31% in 2015.
  • One-third of MPs elected in 2015 went to fee-paying schools. Around three-quarters of MPs elected in 2015 are university graduates.
  • Of those elected in 2015, 177 (27%) were new to the Parliament. 468 (72%) had been MPs in the previous 2010-15 Parliament, while five were elected in 2015 having previously served in Parliaments prior to 2010.


Commons Briefing papers CBP-7483

Author: Lukas Audickas

Topics: Central government, Elections, Members of Parliament, Parliament, Political parties

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