Hill Diversity

Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices

Today, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies released Racial Diversity Among Top Staff in Senate Personal Offices.

This report provides evidence regarding the lack of racial diversity among U.S. Senate personal office top staff positions. This report defines personal office top staff as all chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors in the Washington, DC personal offices of U.S. Senators. The data reflect Senate employment as of January 2020. For exclusive coverage of the report, see The New York Times. Additional media for this report can be found at the bottom of this page.

The report was written by LaShonda Brenson, Ph.D.

Key findings show:

  • People of color make up 40% of the U.S. population, but only 11% of all Senate office top staff.
  • When you break down the ratio of employees by racial group relative to the U.S. population, the results are alarming.

    • Latina/os
      • 18.5% – U.S. population
      • 3.8% – Senate top staffers
    • African Americans
      • 13.4% – U.S. population
      • 3.1% – Senate top staffers
    • Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders
      • 6.1% – U.S. population
      • 2.7% – top staffers
    • Native Americans
      • 1.3 % – U.S. population,
      • There are currently no Native American Senate top staffers
    • Middle Eastern/North Africans
      • 0.5 % – U.S. population
      • 0.3 % – Senate top staffers
    • Biracial Americans
      • 2.7 % – U.S. population
      • 1% – Senate top staffers
  • In states where there are large shares of Black or Latina/o residents – Senate offices hire relatively few Black or Latina/o top staffers.
  • People of color are underrepresented among top staff, even in Senate personal offices that represent large populations of color.
  • In states with large shares of Black residents like AL, DE, GA, LA, MD, MS, NC, SC, NY, and VA:
    • African Americans
      • 27.1% of the population in these states
      • Only 3.5% of the total top staff positions in these states’ U.S. Senate offices
  • In states with large shares of Latina/o residents like AZ, CA, CO, FL, IL, NV, NJ, NM, NY, and TX:
    • Latina/os
      • 29.4% of the population in these states
      • Only 13.6% of the top staff positions in these states’ Senate offices
  • The three states with the highest share of Black residents that are represented by two Democratic U.S. Senators have no Black personal office top staff. 
    • On average, African Americans account for 24.7% of the residents and 39.3% of the 2016 Democratic Party turnout in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, but none (0%) of the 17 top staff positions in the Senate personal offices of these states.
    • In Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi—the three states with the highest share of African American residents that are represented by two Republican U.S. Senators—there are no Black top staff.
  • In the last five years, the overall percentage of personal office top staff of color increased from 7.1% up to 11%, but Asian American/Pacific Islander and Native American numbers declined.
    • Racial diversity among Senate office top staff increased among Latina/os (2.4% to 3.8%) and Africans Americans (0.7% to 3.1%)
    • Racial diversity among Senate office top staff declined among Asian American/Pacific Islanders (3.7% to 2.7%) and Native Americans (0.3% to 0%)

 

For coverage of the report see The Grio, The Hill, Nevada Current, Politico, and Roll Call. For all press inquiries, contact press@jointcenter.org.

 

About Dr. LaShonda Brenson

Dr. LaShonda Brenson currently serves as the Senior Fellow of Diversity and Inclusion at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies where she leads its congressional staff diversity efforts. Prior to her current role, she served as a Civil Rights Analyst at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. At the Commission, Dr. Brenson organized national briefings and wrote reports on municipal fines and fees and its impact on minority communities, minority voting rights, and women in prison. Previously, she was the Research Director at Project Vote, a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization founded on the belief that an organized, diverse electorate is the key to a better America. Dr. Brenson earned her Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics and Political Science from the University of Rochester, and her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Using qualitative interviews with congressional staffers and quantitative methods, her dissertation research provides evidence that the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), as institutions, matter. One way she demonstrates the added value of the CBC and CHC is by illustrating that when caucus members serve as caucus leaders, they introduce more bills because of their additional staff capacity.