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Senate Democrats Survey Results Show More People of Color Hired, But Less Black Staff

July 10, 2019
Contact: press@jointcenter.org

WASHINGTON —  The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies Diversity and Inclusion Senior Fellow Dr. LaShonda Brenson is releasing initial analysis on the latest results from the Senate Democrats’ third annual survey on the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of their staff. To date, Senate Republican offices have neither collected nor released demographic data on their staffs.

The analysis includes rankings of the top three personal and committee offices with racially diverse staff, and looks at personal offices with the most Black, Latino/a, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and women staff. Dr. Brenson also ranked the three least racially diverse personal offices and committee offices.

Compared to last year, there is approximately 1 percent more staff of color, but the number of Black staffers fell by over 1 percent. Overall, staff of color make up 34 percent of Senate Democrat staffers.

Additionally, of the 45 Democratic Senate personal offices, 20 reported an increase in the number of staff who identify as nonwhite, 22 reported a decrease, and 3 remained unchanged. In more than 73 percent of these offices, the change was not substantial (less than 5 percent). (Democratic Senators Sinema (AZ) and Rosen (NV), are not included in this analysis since they were elected in 2019).

Of the 18 U.S. Senate Committees, 7 committees increased the number of staffers of color by more than 5 percent, 4 committees saw a decrease of more than 5 percent, and 5 remained unchanged. Additionally, 6 committees don’t have any Black staff, and 2 don’t have any Black or Latino/a/ staff.

Senator Harris (CA), Senator Schatz (HI), and Senator Booker (NJ) have the highest percentage of diverse personal offices among Senate Democrats, while Senator King (ME) and Senator Tester (MT) have the least amount of diverse staffers in their personal office with 5 percent each.

“It’s encouraging to see more staff of color in some Senate Democratic offices, but we still have a long way to go,” said Dr. Brenson. “While I applaud Senators Harris, Schatz, and Booker for having over 60 percent of people of color in their staff, respectfully, there is still much more room for growth among other senators, who have retained less people of color on their staff since last year. This is also true for a number of Senate committees. As the 2020 election season approaches, we urge all senators to hire staff that reflect the demographics of America.”

Throughout the week, the Joint Center will continue to release analysis about Senate Democrats’ newly released data. Follow our initial analysis here.


A 2015 Joint Center report, Racial Diversity Among Top Senate Staff, found people of color accounted for only 7.1 percent of top Senate staffers, and African Americans accounted for less than 1 percent of these top staffers.

In March 2017, Democratic Senators adopted a set of rules to diversify overwhelmingly white offices. Offices promised to: 1) engage with the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative to identify candidates; 2) engage with congressional staff associations and other groups to attract diverse resumes, and 3) interview diverse applicants. In June 2017, Senate Democrats released their first diversity report, and on July 16, 2018, they released their second report. Our analysis from 2018 can be found here.

As part of its work to increase diversity on the Hill, the Joint Center for Economic and Political Studies partnered with the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund to launch StaffUp Congress. The initiative focuses on ensuring that talented individuals of color can secure opportunities to become senior-level staffers in both the House and Senate.

Last December, the Joint Center also launched an interactive tool to track top staff hires by newly-elected Members of Congress.