By LaShonda Brenson, Ph.D. and Kimberly Victor
This report, Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices, provides evidence regarding the need for more racial diversity among U.S. Senate personal office top staff. In this report, top staff include all chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors in the Washington, DC personal offices of U.S. senators. The data reflects Senate employment as of June 30, 2023. Key findings show:
- People of color make up 41.1 percent of the U.S. population, but only 15.8 percent of all Senate personal office top staff. African Americans account for 13.6 percent of the U.S. population, but only 2.1 percent of Senate personal office top staffers. Latina/os make up 19.1 percent of the U.S. population, but only 5.8 percent of Senate personal office top staffers. Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders are 6.6 percent of the U.S. population, but only 4.5 percent of Senate personal office top staffers.
- Between 2020 and 2023, the overall percentage of personal office top staff of color increased from 11.0 percent to 15.8 percent, but the percentage of African American top staff decreased. The percentage of African American top staff decreased (from 3.1 percent to 2.1 percent) but increased among Senate personal office top staff who are Latina/o (from 3.8 percent to 5.8 percent), Native American (from 0 percent to 0.3 percent), and Asian American/Pacific Islander (from 2.7 percent to 4.5 percent).
- Senate personal offices representing states with large shares of Black or Latina/o residents hire relatively few Black or Latina/o top staffers. African Americans account for an average of 27.2 percent of the population in ten states (AL, DE, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, NY, SC, and VA), yet hold only 5.2 percent of the total top staff positions in these states’ U.S. Senate personal offices. Latina/os account for an average of 30.3 percent of the population in ten states (AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, NJ, NM, NV, NY, and TX), yet hold 20.7 percent of the top staff positions in these states’ Senate personal offices.
- Democrats employ more personal office top staff of color than Republicans. People of color make up 14.0 percent of Republican voters and 7.1 percent of Republican Senate personal office top staff. People of color account for 36.0 percent of Democratic voters, but only 24.0 percent of Democratic Senate personal office top staff. African Americans are 17.0 percent of Democratic registered voters, but only 4.0 percent of Democratic Senate personal office top staff.
- None of the Black top staff hired as of January 2020 were retained as of June 2023. In examining top staff recruitment and retention, we observed that Black top staffers’ retention and hiring patterns are unique. All six current Black top staffers previously worked for other Senate offices, whereas a portion of the staffers from other racial/ethnic backgrounds in this report obtained these positions through internal promotions within the same office.