Seemingly every year, journalists tweet pictures of House and Senate interns, offering photographic evidence that those interning in the branch of government most connected to the people don’t really look like the people. Here’s one of Hill interns posted by Speaker Ryan. And just this week, President Trump is facing similar scrutiny for his almost all white swath of interns.

In 2007, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) created the Senate Democratic Diversity Initiative as a way to increase diversity among the chamber’s staff. The Initiative’s primary goals are twofold: First, to help Democratic Senators staff their offices with aides who reflect the demographics of the states from which they are elected; and two, to recruit, retain, and develop a Senate workforce that spans the racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic spectrums.

As part of these efforts, the Initiative conducts an annual survey of aides within the 49 Democratic—and the two Independent—Senate offices. The survey asks respondents to select their race/ethnicity and their gender. On July 15th, the Initiative released the results of its second staff survey.

The office breakdowns provided by the survey are useful by themselves. For example, they show us that:

Despite the novelty of the staff-level data provided by the survey, a deeper dive is necessary to better quantify the degrees to which Senators hire staffers that reflect their states. After all, the demographics of Vermont are quite different from California, and we would expect—hope, even—the hiring choices of each Senator to mirror the populations found within the state populations they represent. Descriptive representation doesn’t begin and end with the member; who they hire counts, too.

Thus, I compared Senators’ office demographics found within the Initiative survey with those of their elected states using the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimates. Doing so allows us to parse out which Senators’ staff are more or less diverse than their constituents.

Overall, this snapshot of Democratic Senate aide diversity offers several encouraging data points:

How diverse are your Senators’ offices? The table below provides differentials for each of the ethnic/racial groups reported within the survey, as well as staffer gender breakdowns within each Senate office. Differentials are calculated by subtracting the percentage of the states’ demographics from office demographics (i.e., black differential = office black % – state black population %).

Burgat - SenDem_DiversityTable.png

Notes on the methodology:

  1. The percentage of white staffers is calculated by subtracting the listed percentage of non-white staffers within each office from 100.
  2. Many percentages may not equal 100 largely because of how Hispanic/Latino respondents are asked to categorize themselves. Read more about this process here.
  3. Male differences listed in the table are calculated by: percentage of male staff – percentage of female staff. Thus, higher differentials represent offices with higher proportions of male aids.

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