Hill Diversity

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Joint Center Issues Statement on Release of 2018 Senate Democratic Caucus Demographic Data

On July 17, the Joint Center issued the following statement in the wake of Senate Democrats releasing their 2018 demographic data. This is the second release of the data, which occurs annually.

Contact: ress@jointcenter.org
Troubling Lack of Senate Democratic Staff Diversity Persists,
Particularly in Senior and Mid-Level Positions 
In many offices, staffers of color are concentrated in junior and entry level positions 
WASHINGTON, July 17, 2018 – Senate Democrats yesterday released the results from their second annual survey on the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of their staffs.  Compared to last year, the report showed only a slight increase in the number of nonwhite Democratic staffers across 49 Senate personal offices and 19 Senate Committees.
The release of the data, while disappointing, is a critical step towards diversifying Capitol Hill staff. To date, Senate Republican offices have neither collected nor released demographic data on their staffs.
“I applaud Leader Schumer and the Senate Democratic Caucus for releasing an update of their demographic data. This is a vital step in creating transparency and accountability,” said Don Bell, Director the Joint Center’s Black Talent Initiative. “The data make it clear that after more than a year of actions taken to address diversity and inclusion, the Senate needs additional help. The lack of diversity and inclusion is an institutional crisis, which severely diminishes the Senate’s ability to effectively represent the views and needs of all Americans. We need bold action. The Senate needs a nonpartisan chief diversity officer.”
Of the 49 Democratic Senate personal offices, 28 reported an increase in the number of staff who identify as nonwhite, 17 reported a decrease, and four remained unchanged. In more than half of these offices, the change was not substantial (less than 5 percent).
Of the 19 U.S. Senate Committees, six committees increased the number of Democratic staffers of color, nine committees saw a decrease, and four remained unchanged. Similar to the Democratic Senate personal offices, half reported no substantial change.
Offices With Staffers of Color Concentrated in Lower Level Positions
One problem with the Democratic Senate survey data report is that it lists the raw percentage of staffers of color in the office and fails to disclose particular positions held.  Thus, the survey data report obscures the fact that many offices representing diverse states appear to lack staffers of color in top leadership positions (chief of staff, legislative director, communications director) and in mid-level positions (deputy chief of staff, deputy legislative director, legislative assistant [including advisors], counsel, press secretary).
For example, even though the survey indicates that 46 percent of Senator Carper’s (DE) staff are people of color, none of the staffers in his office in the top or mid-level positions listed above appear to be people of color. Several other Senators come from states with significant populations of color, but appear to lack any staffers of color in the top or mid-level positions listed above, including Senators Coons (DE), Menendez (NJ), Casey (PA), Donnelly (IN), whitehouse (RI), and Baldwin (WI).
Some Senators from states with significant Black populations appear to have staffers of color in some of the top or mid-level positions listed above, but appear to lack Black staffers in these positions, including Senators Kaine (VA), Blumenthal (CT), Murphy (CT), Reed (RI), and Klobuchar (MN). Senator Ben Cardin (MD) lacks an African American in a top staff position and appears to have only one Black staffer in one of the mid-level positions described above, even though the population of Maryland is approximately 31 percent Black.  (African Americans account for a disproportionately large share of Democratic votes—they comprise 13.4 percent of the U.S. population but account for 23 percent of Democratic voters).
The Senate Democratic Caucus did not publicly release data on each position, and thus the Joint Center used LegiStorm data to conduct an unofficial analysis of all 49 DC-based personal office staffs. Although unofficial, we believe this kind of detailed data is necessary for constituents to understand the proportion of staffers of color in decision making positions. We urge both Senate Democrats and Republicans to officially disclose position-specific data in the future.
“We all know that the U.S. Senate has a problem with a lack of diversity in top level positions,” said Spencer Overton, the President of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.  “The mid-level positions are often feeder positions to the leadership positions. Thus, a failure to hire, retain, and promote diverse mid-level staff perpetuates a lack of diversity among top staff in the future. More offices need to do a better job hiring, retaining, and promoting diverse mid-level and top staff.”
Offices With Significant Diversity in Top and Mid-Level Positions
Many of the offices that are most deliberate in seeking greater diversity and inclusion have seen results.
Senator Brian Schatz (HI) has the most diverse overall staff of all Democratic Senate offices—it is 72 percent people of color (a six point increase from the previous year). Senator Schatz’s office appears to have at least six staff of color in mid-level or top roles in his DC office.
People of color make up 66 percent of the staff of Senator Kamala Harris (CA) and account for eight of those in mid-level and top positions (including four African Americans).  Her office appears to be one of the most diverse among mid and senior-level staff.
Other Senate Democrats have significant racial diversity among their overall staff and among the mid-level positions listed above and are worthy of recognition, including Senators Booker (NJ), Brown (OH), Gillibrand (NY), Jones (AL), Van Hollen (MD), Warner (VA), and Warren (MA).
With regard to top positions, only one Democratic Senator has a Black chief of staff (Jones (AL)).  Only two have Black legislative directors (Feinstein (CA) and Harris (CA)).  None of the personal offices of the 49 Democratic Senators have a Black communications director.  As a result, of the 147 top positions, only three are held by Black staffers. This accounts for 2% of all top positions.
None of the 19 full committees have a Black or Latino staff director (Democratic or Republican).
A 2015 Joint Center report, Racial Diversity Among Top Senate Staff, found people of color accounted for only 7.1 percent of top Senate staffers, and African Americans accounted for less than 1 percent of these top staffers.
In March 2017, Democratic Senators adopted a set of rules to diversify overwhelmingly white offices.  Offices promised to: 1) engage with the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative to identity candidates; 2) engage with congressional staff associations and other groups to attract diverse resumes; and 3) interview diverse applicants.  In June 2017, Senate Democrats released their first diversity report, on July 16, 2018 they released their second report.
As part of its work to increase diversity on the Hill, the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies partnered with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund to launch StaffUp Congress. The initiative focuses on ensuring that talented individuals of color can secure opportunities to become senior-level staffers in both the House and Senate.