Number of nonwhite Democratic Senate staffers ticks up from 2020

Number of nonwhite Democratic Senate staffers ticks up from 2020
© Greg Nash

Diversity among Democratic Senate staffers has increased modestly in the past year, according to the caucus’s latest annual survey published Tuesday night.

Senate Democrats’ survey showed that around 39 percent of their staffers identify as nonwhite, up from just over 35 percent in 2020.

As a whole, people of color make up over 40 percent of the U.S.’s total population, a figure that continues to rise.

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The survey is part of the Senate Democrats’ effort created in 2017 increase diversity among staff, so that their makeups would be more representative of the country. 

In addition to the yearly survey, Senate Democrats also abide by their own version of the NFL’s “Rooney Rule,” requiring offices to interview at least one person of color for every job opening.

“We’ve made some significant progress this past year, but much work remains to increase congressional staff diversity and ensure that every voice is heard and adequately represented in the halls of Congress,” Senate Majority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerMcConnell signals Senate GOP will oppose combined debt ceiling-funding bill Centrist state lawmaker enters Ohio GOP Senate primary Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week MORE (D-N.Y.) told Politico in a statement.

A few Senate Democrats had particularly low diversity rates.

Only 8 percent of staffers for Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyPhotos of the Week: Renewable energy, gymnast testimonies and a Met Gala dress Senators denounce protest staged outside home of Justice Kavanaugh Al Franken on another Senate run: 'I'm keeping my options open' MORE (Vt.) and Angus KingAngus KingRep. Tim Ryan becomes latest COVID-19 breakthrough case in Congress Senate backers of new voting rights bill push for swift passage Stacey Abrams backs Senate Democrats' voting rights compromise MORE (I-Maine) identified as not white. Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit Overnight Health Care — Presented by Indivior —Pfizer: COVID-19 vaccine safe for young kids MORE (W.Va.) had the lowest staff diversity, with 7 percent of his staff identifying as nonwhite.

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By contrast, at least 70 percent of the staffs of Sens. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSenate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' Democrats warn shrinking Biden's spending plan could backfire Hillicon Valley: Facebook tightens teen protections | FBI cautions against banning ransomware payments | Republicans probe White House-social media collaboration MORE (Hawaii), Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) and Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockDemocrats push to shield election workers from violent threats   House Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Polls open in California as Newsom fights for job MORE (Ga.) identified as nonwhite. 

The push to have greater diversity among staff ranks in recent years has come as Congress itself has increasingly become more diverse. The current session of Congress is the most diverse yet, surpassing the record that was set by the legislative body’s last session.

The House has also invested in diversity efforts, establishing its own Office of Diversity and Inclusion in 2019. 

That year, the new office released a compensation and diversity study that showed almost 70 percent of House employees were white. 

To be sure, diversity remains an issue on both sides of the aisle.

An August 2020 study from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies looked at top Senate staffers — chief of staff, legislative director and communications director roles — revealing only 11 percent of people in those positions were people of color, a 4-point increase from 7 percent in 2015.

Delaware, Maryland and Virginia — the states with the highest percentage of Black residents that are represented by two Democratic senators — had no Black people in top staff positions at the time of the study.

The same was true for Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi — states that have the highest number of Black residents represented by two Republican senators.