New Report Finds Lack of Racial Diversity Among Top Staff Positions in U.S. House of Representatives

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Chilling Study Reveals the American Public is More Likely to Elect People of Color to the U.S. House than House Members are to Hire Top Staff of Color

Much of the Democrats’ Staff Diversity Comes from Congressional Black Caucus, Study Finds

WASHINGTON (September 12, 2018) – A new study reveals a disturbing lack of racial diversity among top staff in the U.S. House of Representatives. The report, co-authored by Elsie Scott, Ph.D., founding director of the Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center at Howard University, finds that the American public is more likely to elect a person of color to the House than House members are to hire a person of color for top staff positions.

“The top staff positions we looked at, chief of staff, legislative director, and communications director, provide critical direction to the members they work for, by recommending legislation they should support and interpreting what the office is doing to the public,” says Scott. “In Memphis, Tenn., the one district in the country that is majority black, isn’t represented by an African-American member of congress and has no people of color in the three top positions.”

The study also found that much of the Democrats’ staff diversity comes from the Congressional Black Caucus.

“We found that Congressional Black Caucus members are more likely to hire people of color than any other members,” says Scott, who is also a former president and chief executive of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. “The timing of the study really honors the work of Ronald W. Walters who was a top advisor to the founding members of CBC.”

According to a press release by The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies who released the detailed report titled “Racial Diversity Among Top U.S. House Staff:”

  • Almost a three-quarters of House Members—313 members—have no top staff of color;
  • Over a quarter of members—114 members—represent districts that are over a third people of color but do not have any top staff of color;
  • Much of the Democrats’ staff diversity comes from the Congressional Black Caucus. While 53 percent of Congressional Black Caucus members’ top staffers are Black, only 2 percent of White Democratic members’ top staffers are Black; 
  • Almost 40 percent of the Democratic Congressional Hispanic Caucus members and half of the Republican Congressional Hispanic Conference members have no Latino top staff;
  • There are no Latinos, Asian American Pacific Islanders, or Native Americans in any of the 40 committee staff director positions or in any of the 24 top staff positions in the four top leadership offices of Democrats and Republicans; and
  • Women account for almost 61 percent of Black top staffers, almost 45 percent of Latina/o top staffers, and just over 31 percent of AAPI top staffers. 

Karra W. McCray, also co-authored the report, while earning her master’s degree in political science from Howard University.

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About Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center

The Ronald W. Walters Leadership and Public Policy Center was established by Howard University to serve as a focal point for research, publications, service, policy discussions and leadership development activities in areas involving the engagement of African Americans in the U.S. political process and in U.S. national and foreign policy. The Center is an interdisciplinary center that will preserve the legacy of Dr. Ronald Walters, a scholar-activist who conducted research, served as a mentor to students and political leaders, provided strategic direction and thinking in the political and civic arenas, was a prolific writer and served as a political commentator. It is envisioned that the Walters Center will become the premier academic center for research and publications on policy issues that directly impact the global black community.

About Howard University

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 13 schools and colleges. Students pursue studies in more than 120 areas leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced four Rhodes Scholars, 11 Truman Scholars, two Marshall Scholars, one Schwarzman Scholar, over 70 Fulbright Scholars and 22 Pickering Fellows. Howard also produces more on-campus African-American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu.

Media Contact: Misha Cornelius, misha.cornelius@howard.edu