NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Congressional Staffs Lack Diversity

July 7, 2003

Although the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the University of Michigan affirmative action case found that ethnic and racial diversity in a college student population may be a compelling state interest, studies show that diversity is less valued in Congress, according to the Minnesota Star-Tribune.

In contrast with federal employment in Washington, which is highly regulated and made up of a highly diverse civil service (30 percent minority), members of Congress set their own hiring guidelines for their 15,000-person workforce, free from federal affirmative action policies.

  • Six of Minnesota's eight House members currently employ no blacks or Hispanics as permanent staffers -- including Rep. Betty McCollum (D), whose St. Paul district has a combined black and Hispanic population of 12 percent.
  • Black and Hispanics together are 5.6 percent of the staff of the Minnesota delegation, not far below the proportion of blacks and Hispanics in the state, which was 6.4 percent in the 2000 census.
  • Sen. Norm Coleman (R) has one of the most diverse staffs in the Minnesota delegation, with five blacks and one Hispanic, along with one Asian-American on his office staff of 41.
  • Elsewhere in Congress, blacks and Hispanics, who make up 26 percent of the U.S. population, account for 3.5 percent of top aides, according to a recent National Journal study of 314 Capitol Hill staffers.

Some point to political patronage and low pay as barriers to diversity in congressional employment, despite the presence of 39 black and 23 Hispanic elected House members out of 435.

Source: Kevin Diaz, "Congressional offices reflect a white world," Minnesota Star-Tribune, July 7, 2003.


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