Black Talent Initiative


Joint Center Releases Data on Black Commissioned Officers in Biden White House

September 12, 2022

Chandra Hayslett,
Valerie Jean-Charles, ​​

Joint Center Releases Data on Black Commissioned Officers in Biden White House

Today’s report shows Black Americans woefully underrepresented among commissioned officers in the White House

Washington, DC — Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released a report, “Black Representation Among Commissioned Officers in the Biden White House,” outlining the representation of Black Americans among commissioned officers in the Biden White House. The Joint Center used the Biden Administration’s 2022 Annual Report to Congress on White House Office Personnel, which disclosed the names, titles, and salaries of White House Office employees, including the highest-ranking White House staff — commissioned officers. The Biden administration’s report, however, lacked analysis on the racial breakdown of high-ranking White House staff. The report was exclusively covered by The Washington Post.

“The data doesn’t lie. Black Americans accounted for 22 percent of President Biden’s voters, but only 11 percent of President Biden’s highest-ranking White House Office staffers,” said Spencer Overton, president of the Joint Center. “Black Americans are not simply an essential voting bloc — we should be at the table at the highest levels when critical policy decisions are being made. The Biden administration’s appointments to high-profile positions like the cabinet and the Supreme Court are historic, but better Black representation in less visible but incredibly consequential commissioned officer positions is also important. Additional Black representation is particularly warranted in the very top positions — assistant to the president and deputy assistant to the president.”

Many commissioned officers have direct access to the president, influence the president’s thinking, and make recommendations. There are three commissioned officer positions: assistant to the president (highest level), deputy assistant to the president (mid-level), and special assistant to the president (lowest level). There are currently 139 commissioned officer positions in the White House. Twenty-two percent of people who voted for President Biden in the 2020 election were Black. In the Biden White House, however, only 15 (11 percent) of commissioned officers are Black. Of those 15 Black commissioned officers, 11 (73 percent) are in the lowest level — special assistant to the president.

The Joint Center made the following recommendations to President Biden:

  • Appoint Black Americans to vacant commissioned officer positions.
  • Disclose data on employees in each of the 14 agencies of the Executive Office of the President.
  • Collect and report personnel demographics of commissioned officers and other federal employees (and vacancies) on a quarterly basis.

In a poll conducted earlier this year by the Joint Center, Black Americans voiced their expectation that the Biden White House be reflective of them. More than two-thirds of respondents considered it important for President Biden to prioritize appointing Black people to important government positions.

The “Black Representation Among Commissioned Officers in the Biden White House” was authored by Karra McCray, a PhD candidate at Brown University, who co-authored the Joint Center’s 2018 report Racial Diversity Among Top U.S. House Staff.

A full copy of today’s report is available here.


About the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, America’s Black think tank, provides compelling and actionable policy solutions to eradicate persistent and evolving barriers to the full freedom of Black people in America. We are the trusted forum for leading experts and scholars to participate in major public policy debates and promote ideas that advance Black communities. We use evidence-based research, analysis, convenings, and strategic communications to support Black communities and a network of allies.