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Joint Center News: July 2020

This is our regular monthly newsletter, which reviews all of the Joint Center’s work over the past month.

Economic Studies

Joint Center Vice President Jessica Fulton was quoted in a ProPublica analysis putting COVID-19 unemployment rates into a historical context across race, gender, age, education, and income. “The Black unemployment rate is always ridiculously high, but we don’t treat it like a crisis,” said Jessica in the analysis.

Jessica joined a panel at a virtual convening co-hosted by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, the Ford Foundation, and the Omidyar Network. The panel, Addressing the Fragilities and Structural Barriers that Exacerbate Economic Inequality and Weaken Our Economy, explored “the ideas and policies that will help level the playing field between the rich and the rest of us and lead to policy solutions that will protect U.S. families now and in the future.”

Spencer wrote that addressing systemic racism requires that we invest in Black economists and center Black communities in economic policy. Right now, only about 3% of economists are Black, and traditional economics rests on incomplete assumptions that miss key variables (e.g., discrimination) that shape markets and opportunities.

Spencer wrote about critical issues for Black communities stemming from the congressional hearing featuring the CEO’s of Amazon, Apple, Google/Alphabet, and Facebook. Key questions involve whether platforms have sufficient incentives to adequately invest in innovation to stop online discrimination and misinformation, whether users and advertisers have adequate choices if they feel a platform is not adequately preventing discrimination, and whether the companies are adequately addressing systemic bias and lack of diversity among their own workforces and leadership.

Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Jocelyn Frye published Centering Equity in the Future-of-Work Conversation Is Critical for Women’s Progress, which encourages employers and policymakers to center gender equity as workplaces transform.

Heartland Forward released a new report on the decline in economic mobility by zip code highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis, and breaks down the key drivers of economic opportunity. Unsurprisingly, race plays a big role—even “Black men from high-income families display much higher rates of downward mobility than their white peers.” The report suggests that lack of access to capital—which enables entrepreneurship—is one of many systemic factors at play.

Political Studies


The Joint Center released Dr. LaShonda Brenson’s analysis of the Senate Democrats 2020 staff demographic data. Dr. Brenson ranked the most and least racially-diverse committee and personal offices, including the offices with the largest gap between Black staff and Black state population. For example, African Americans accounted for 47% of Maryland’s Democratic turnout and 31% of Maryland’s state population, but only about a quarter of the staffs of both Democratic U.S. Senators who represent Maryland—Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen. Fox News covered the analysis.

The Joint Center also released a statement commending Senate Democrats for their leadership in releasing staff diversity data (Senate Republican offices have not released this data), and urging Democrats to go further by releasing data disaggregated by position and office location. “[D]ata disclosed by position could reveal that some offices concentrate staffers of color in lower-level positions, while a lack of diversity persists in top-level positions like chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors,” said Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson in the statement. “Data disaggregated by office location could show that a Member seems to emphasize diversity in state offices where it is more visible to constituents, but discount diversity in Washington, DC.”

The Joint Center hosted an online policy forum with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to discuss safe and fair elections in the midst of a pandemic and opportunities to increase Black voter turnout. Congresswoman Fudge—Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Administration Subcommittee on Election—was joined by National Coalition on Black Civic Participation CEO Melanie Campbell and Colorado Division of Elections Director Judd Choate. The expert panelists highlighted the need for Congress to appropriate additional money for elections to states, as well as investments in safe in-person voting options, voter education programs to educate citizens on how to vote by mail, and fair and transparent signature matching laws to ensure access.

Joint Center President Spencer Overton’s congressional testimony on disinformation online and Section 230 was quoted in a Bloomberg article on Department of Homeland Security efforts to “track and analyze social media disinformation campaigns by Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea targeting the U.S. 2020 election.” Spencer’s testimony was also quoted in the Colorado Times Recorder’s coverage of the congressional hearing.

The Joint Center released a joint statement with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and several other civil rights groups on Facebook’s civil rights audit. The statement acknowledges the audit as a significant step for Facebook, but notes that “many crucial civil rights problems remain that Facebook must address to protect our democracy and our communities.” Last month, the Joint Center also released a joint statement with the Leadership Conference and others in direct response to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s recent policy announcement on hate speech and voter disinformation.

LaShondajoined thought leaders on a panel at the Women in Government Relations’ Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Virtual Summitto discuss why having diverse congressional staff is critical at this moment. She also provided early analysis on the Joint Center’s upcoming report, Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices.

In a letter to House Democrats, Congressman Tony Cárdenas (D-CA) said his fellow Democratic colleagues are “failing” to address the lack of diversity among top staff positions on the Hill and called on them to implement better hiring practices to fix the disparity. Congressman Cárdenas also cited the Joint Center’s 2018 report, Racial Diversity Among Top House Staff, which found that of the 1,110 senior staff positions, only 152 were people of color.

Dr. James R. Jones, who authored the Joint Center’s 2015 report Racial Diversity Among Top Senate Staff, cited the aforementioned report and the Joint Center’s 2018 report, Racial Diversity Among Top House Staff, in a Teen Vogue op-ed. Dr. Jones emphasizes the importance of paying congressional interns to decrease racial inequities and disparities in political positions, as recommended in his recent report, The Color of Congress: Racial Representation Among Interns in the U.S. House of Representatives.


On his weekly podcast, WashingTECH Host Joe Miller spoke with Youth Exchanges at World Learning Divisional Vice President Christina Thomas on virtual training, New York University McSilver Institute Fellow-in-Residence Henry L. Greenidge on transportation equity, freelance writer and journalist Sara Harrison on telehealth during end of life care, and Oxford Internet Institute Director Philip N. Howard on digital media and propaganda. The podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and WashingTECH’s website. Listen here.

Now Hiring

The Joint Center is seeking a Special Assistant to the President and Project Coordinator. The person will manage the president’s daily business by scheduling internal and external meetings, and pro-actively ensuring that meetings and appointments stay on time regarding the president’s schedule; arrange travel and meetings; develop itineraries, meeting logistics and agendas; support operational, managerial, and logistical needs of the board of trustees as necessary; and complete special assignments, work with the president to establish objectives and align time and resources with objectives; and relentlessly prioritize based on evolving opportunities and challenges. Candidates should apply by August 10, 2020.


The National Action Network is hosting the Commitment March on August 28 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. The march, convened by Rev. Al Sharpton and Martin Luther King III, will take place during the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. The march’s aim is to “demonstrate our advocacy for comprehensive policy accountability reform, the Census, and mobilizing voters for the November elections.” Gathering will begin at 7am EST, with the program scheduled to take place from 8am to 3pm EST.

The Joint Center is proud to serve as a national partner of this event. In accordance with CDC guidelines, the Joint Center urges all attending to wear the required face mask, maintain social distancing of at least 6 feet, and stay home if you are not feeling well.

Supporting the Joint Center

The Joint Center is participating in the Donor Advised Fund #HalfMyDAF HEROES program. With each monetary nomination, the Joint Center earns a better chance to be one of the 150 nonprofits to receive a matching grant of up to $25,000. The deadline is September 30. Learn more here.

Thank you for your support.