In the 1970s more women began to participate directly in state politics, and at about the same time, so did Latinos (Mexican Americans, primarily). By 2003, women had gained thirty-two seats in the House (about 21 percent of the total) and four seats in the slower-to-change Senate (about 13 percent). In the 82nd legislative session the number of women in the House fell slightly to 31 members while in the Senate women gained a few seats to bring their numbers up to six. (See this chapter's feature on Gender in the Texas Legislature.)
Both chambers have become more diverse racially and ethnically as well. In the thirty-eight years between the 62nd legislature and the 82nd (from 1971-2011), the percentage of Mexican Americans in the House rose from 7.3 percent to 20.7 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of African Americans in the House rose from 1.3 percent to 12 percent.
Similar changes are evident in the Senate, whose membership in 1971 included only one Mexican American and one African American (3.2 percent each of the total membership). By 2011, those numbers rose to seven (22.6 percent) and two (6.5 percent), respectively. (See this chapter's feature on Race in the Texas Legislature 1971 - 2011.)
The impact of these and other trends has been a weakening of the historically restrictive "informal qualifications" for membership in the state Legislature. While lagging behind the social transformations in the broader society, today's legislature is much more diverse than even a generation ago.