Senate

Data shows diverse Democratic congressional staff, but pay disparities persist

The U.S. Capitol is seen from the East Front Plaza on Monday, June 27, 2022.
Greg Nash
The U.S. Capitol is seen from the East Front Plaza on Monday, June 27, 2022.

A new survey released Wednesday found Sens. Alex Padilla (Calif.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Cory Booker (N.J.) have the most diverse staff of Senate Democrats’ personal offices — even as a separate study found racial pay disparity runs rampant through all Capitol Hill offices.

The first survey, conducted by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, breaks down the total percentage of Senate staffers of color, including the percent of Latino staffers, Black staffers and Asian American Pacific Islander staffers. 

The data also highlights how well senators’ office staff reflect the diversity of their constituents. 

For instance, Padilla, whose state is 65 percent people of color, according to the survey, has a staff that is 70 percent people of color. Thirty-eight percent of that staff is Latino. 

In a joint statement, several congressional staffers of color associations including the Congressional Asian Pacific American Staff Association, Congressional Hispanic Staff Association and Senate Black Legislative Staff Caucus (SBLSC) acknowledged the momentum toward hiring staffers of color. 

But they also said more work needs to be done.

“We call on all Senate offices to prioritize staff diversity in their recruitment, retention, and advancement,” the statement from the groups said. “The toll that the pandemic and the events of the past few years has taken on congressional staff has only intensified the need for proactive steps to ensure that Capitol Hill is an environment where staff can thrive.”

The Joint Center’s report comes the same week another report finds both Republicans and Democrats pay non-white staffers thousands of dollars less than white staffers each year. 

An analysis by LegiStorm found non-white staffers in both parties make only 91 percent compared to white staffers. That’s about $5,600 less per year. The analysis included staff in offices in Washington, D.C., and in the lawmakers’ home states.

That gap widens in D.C., where non-white staffers are paid only 86 percent of what white staffers make, or $9,100 less per year.

In a statement to The Hill, Dagoberto Acevedo, communications director for the CHSA, said both reports serve as “a stark reminder” of the work that needs to be done by the Senate to address pay equity and diversity. 

Among Senate Republicans, Latino staffers are the lowest-paid racial group, making $4,700 less than their white counterparts each year.

For Democrats, the lowest-paid racial group is AAPI staffers. They make $12,300 less per year than white staffers.

Calling the discrepancy “unacceptable,” the groups said in a joint statement they will “seek a commitment from Senators and senior staff to address this problem.”

The SBLSC sent a separate statement to The Hill saying it’s glad to see increased diverse hiring, but that retention rates will decrease without equal pay. 

“We feel strongly that we will risk losing the progress that has been made if current efforts are not met with additional investment in staff compensation,” the statement said. “Pay increases will also help to ensure the Senate can continue recruiting the highest quality, most diverse pool of applicants and produce the legislation that our Nation and the U.S. Senate requires.”

Tags Alex Padilla Alex Padilla corey booker Cory Booker Mazie Hirono
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