Hill Diversity

Almost Two-Thirds of Top Staff Positions Are Filled & New Members Lag in Top Staff of Color

The Joint Center released the following press release giving an update on top staff diversity among new Members of Congress.

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 13, 2021
Contact: press@jointcenter.org

 

WASHINGTON – Almost two-thirds of the top staff positions of newly-elected U.S. House and Senate Members have been filled. While freshmen Members have hired top staff that is more diverse than those hired by freshmen two years ago, people of color remain significantly underrepresented.
With the election of Democratic Georgia Senators Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, there are a total of 210 top positions (chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors) in the personal offices of new Members of the 117th Congress.

According to the Joint Center’s interactive tracking tool which monitors top staff hires of each new Member, almost two-thirds of the positions have already been filled (137 of 210 (or 65.2 percent)) as of January 12, 2021. Of the top staff hired by new Members so far, 23.4 percent are people of color, and 6.6 percent are African American. With people of color accounting for 40 percent of the U.S. population (African Americans are 13.4 percent), the low numbers are concerning.

Newly-Elected House Members

Of the 122 top staff positions filled by new House Members, the hiring of diverse top staffers by newly-elected House Members (23.8 percent) continues to lag behind the national population (40 percent people of color), but is higher than the top staff of newly-elected House Members two years ago (19.9 percent of color), and the top staff of the entire House in 2018 (13.7 percent of color).

House Democrats: Of the 31 positions already filled, people of color account for 48.4 percent of top staff hired by newly-elected House Democrats. By comparison, people of color accounted for 25.8 percent of top staff employed by freshman House Democrats two years ago. There are 14 top staff positions of new House Democratic Members that remain to be filled.

House Republicans: Of the 91 positions already filled, people of color account for 15.4 percent of top staff hired by newly-elected House Republicans. By comparison, people of color accounted for 7.1 percent of staff employed by freshman House Republicans two years ago. There are 44 top staff positions of new House Republican Members that remain to be filled.

Note: We did not include New York’s 22nd congressional district in our tracker, as the results of these races are still being challenged.

Newly-Elected Senators

Of the 15 top staff positions filled by newly-elected Senators, diverse top staffers account for 20 percent, which is higher than the entire U.S. Senate (11 percent) and the hiring by newly-elected Senators two years ago (7.7 percent). All three of the top staff of color recently hired are Latina/o. There are 15 top staff positions (50 percent of the total) that remain to be filled (12 are Democratic, and 3 are Republican).

Diversity Must Be a Priority in Filling Remaining Spots

While diversity among top staff of the freshmen Members of the 117th Congress is currently better than freshmen of the 116th Congress, people of color remain significantly underrepresented. Further, if none of the 73 remaining open-top staff positions are filled by people of color, racial diversity among top staff of newly-elected Members will fall from 23.8 percent to 16.1 percent in the House, and will fall from 20 percent to 10 percent in the Senate. Newly-elected Members must continue to prioritize racial diversity in filling their remaining 58 House and 15 Senate open top staff positions.

Background

Last month, the Joint Center launched its interactive tracking tool allowing users to learn how each new Member of Congress is faring when it comes to hiring diverse top staff (chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors) in the Member’s Washington, DC office. The Joint Center updates tracker data regularly.

To view detailed data on top staff of color hired by newly-elected Members, click here.

To understand the problem of a lack of Hill staff diversity, why it matters, and solutions, click here.

To see the Joint Center’s research and activities on Hill staff diversity (including our tool tracking the racial diversity of hires to fill the over 200 open top staff positions of newly-elected House and Senate Members), click here.

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