This report card examines racial diversity among top staff in U.S. Senate full committee offices in the 117th Congress. We define “top staff” as the following job titles: staff director, deputy staff director, chief counsel, general counsel, and policy director (125 top staff positions).
For details on our grading system, see the methodology and background sections below the table and chart. A committee office with a top staff diversity score of less than 40 is not representative of the racial diversity of our nation.
For the table below, click on the column titles to sort by ascending or descending order.
The Joint Center will release more detailed analysis and data disaggregated by race, position, and party affiliation in Dr. LaShonda Brenson’s forthcoming report Racial Diversity Among Senate Committee Top Staff.
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This data was last updated on June 7, 2021. For exclusive coverage of the report, see Politico.
Senate Committee Offices Ranked by Top Staff Racial Diversity (Table)
The bar graph below shows the staff diversity in Senate committees ranked from highest to lowest as of June 7, 2021.
Senate Committee Offices Ranked by Top Staff Racial Diversity (Bar Chart)
The U.S. Senate has 20 permanent committees. Each committee generally has a majority office which is led by the Senator in the majority party who serves as chair of the committee, and a minority office which is led by the Senator in the minority party who serves as ranking member of the committee. For each committee, there is generally a majority staff director who leads the majority committee office and works for the committee chair, and a separate minority staff director who leads the minority committee office and works for the committee’s ranking member.* Each committee office also hires other top staff, which may include deputy staff directors, chief counsels, general counsels, and policy directors.
*The exception to this is the bipartisan Select Committee on Ethics, which has one bipartisan staff director. Thus, the 20 committees have a total of 39 staff directors.
Methodology for Determining Diversity Score
We used various means to determine which titles we would identify as “top staff,” including interviews with former committee staff, common titles across committees, and average salaries associated with particular titles. Based on these factors, we confined our analysis to five positions: staff director, deputy staff director, chief counsel, general counsel, and policy director (125 top staff positions). A few high-paying and important positions that lacked significant diversity were not included in our analysis because they were not common across committees (e.g., chief economist for the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee). This report card only includes top staff who report to a committee chair or a ranking member. The top staff who work out of a Member's personal office were not included in this study.
While the study focuses on the top staff position of Senate full committee offices, the following subcommittees have staff directors of color: 1) Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection Subcommittee, Democratic; 2) Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Economic Policy and Housing Subcommittee, Republican; and 3) Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Transportation and Community Development Subcommittee, Republican.
Our evaluation assigns a score for racial diversity for each full committee office among those in top staff positions. Some positions have greater authority than others, and thus we assigned 7 points to staff director positions, 5 points to deputy staff director positions, 4 points to chief counsel and general counsel positions, and 3 points to policy director positions. We assigned the points to both those positions with the standalone title (e.g., chief counsel) and to those who have the title modified by a particular area of focus (e.g., chief tax counsel).
Our scoring system also accounts for the fact that various committee offices have different numbers of top staff spots. We determine our diversity score by the total points of those top positions held by people of color divided by the total points of all top positions in the office, multiplied by 100.
For example, assume Committee A-Democratic Office had only two top staff positions—a staff director (7 points) and chief counsel (4 points)—and the chief counsel was a person of color. The score would be 36.36 (4 divided by 11 times 100).
By comparison, assume Committee B-Democratic Office had four top staffer positions—a staff director (7 points) and three chief counsels (4 points each, for a total of 12)—and one of the three chief counsels was a person of color. The score for Committee B-Democratic Office would be 21.05 (4 divided by 19 times 100).
In the hypothetical situation above, the diversity score for Committee A-Democratic office (36.36) would be higher than the diversity score for Committee B-Democratic office (21.05).