The Racial Diversity of the New Congress Is Not Reflected in Staff Positions

The 118th Congress is the most diverse in American history. Of the 535 members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, 133 are Black, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian, or Alaska Native. Of these 133 legislators, about 80 percent are Democrats. Blacks are now 13 percent of all legislators, roughly equal to the Black percentage of the U.S. population.

A new report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies finds that despite greater diversity of the members of the House and Senate, this diversity is not reflected in high-level staff positions. There are 1,599 top positions (chiefs of staff, legislative directors, and communications directors) in the personal offices of members of the 118th Congress. As of January 6, 2023,  1,414 of these 1,599 positions had been filled.

Of the top staff hired by new members so far, 16.3 percent are people of color, and 4.4 percent are African American. (People of color account for 40.0 percent of the U.S. population and African Americans are 12.4 percent.)

Of the 1,021 top staff positions filled by returning House members, 18.4 percent are people of color. Of the 258 top staff positions filled by returning Senate members, 15.9 percent are people of color.

LaShonda Brenson, senior and lead researcher on the midterm hiring campaign at the Joint Center, stated that “it’s imperative that the newly-elected and returning members of Congress fill the remaining open top staff positions with diverse staffers because they bring a perspective that’s more representative of their constituents that can be used to dismantle the structural inequality in laws passed by Congress.”

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