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New Joint Center Report Finds People of Color Are Significantly Underrepresented in U.S. Senate Committee Top-Level Positions

Most U.S. Senate Committee Chairs and Ranking Members Fail to Hire Top Staff That Reflects U.S. Diversity

Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released Racial Diversity Among Senate Committee Top Staff, a report revealing a lack of racial diversity among top staff in Senate committee offices.

The report found that while people of color account for 40 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 7.9 percent of Senate staff directors and 15.7 percent of non-staff director top staff roles (e.g., deputy staff director, chief counsel, general counsel, and policy director). While African Americans account for 12.4 percent of the U.S. population, they make up only 2.6 percent of Senate staff directors and 2.4 percent of non-staff director top staff.

The report revealed that the lack of racial diversity among Senate full committee top staff is a bipartisan issue. Although people of color make up 37.9 percent of Democratic voters nationally, they account for only 11.1 percent of Democratic Senate staff directors and 20 percent of other Democratic full committee top staff. And while people of color account for 29.6 percent of Republican voters nationally, they account for only 5.3 percent of Republican Senate staff directors and 11.6 percent of other Republican full committee top staff.

Data suggest that staff of color are concentrated into lower levels on full committees. For example, last week Democrats released data from June 30, 2021 showing that the average Democratic committee office had a staff that was 35 percent people of color. The Joint Center’s data, which represents Senate employment as of June 7, 2021, show that only 17.2 percent of all Democratic full committee top staff are people of color. There is no data to suggest that Republicans are doing any better than Democrats because Senate Republicans do not release staff demographic data.

“Senate committee top staffers play an integral role in Congress as they dissect legislation and communicate priorities to committee Chairs and Ranking Members,” said Joint Center Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion Dr. LaShonda Brenson. “To solve the problem of the lack of diversity, more committee offices should formalize their diversity and inclusion plans, and consistently measure progress and adjust recruiting and retention strategies. Senators should ensure several staffers of color are in mid-level positions that feed into top positions. We commend Senate Democrats for their leadership in sharing overall data on diversity among their Senate committee staff, and urge them to disaggregate the data by position. We also urge Senate Republicans to release data, and encourage the Senate as a whole to create a bipartisan Office of Diversity and Inclusion to help develop, promote, and retain people of color into top staff positions.”

In forthcoming reports, the Joint Center will analyze data on the racial diversity of Senate mid-level staff and state directors and examine data on staff diversity in the U.S. House.

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