As much as Congress lacks diversity, its staff lacks it even moreso.
We wrote Thursday about how diversity among Oscar nominees and the Academy compared with members of Congress (conclusion: not favorably). After that posted, Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), who had written a letter to the Academy president about the lack of non-white nominees in the acting categories, suggested we compared Congress and its staff.
@hunterschwarz I like your article, but there's a second-day story to write: How diverse is Congress' staff? How much does that matter?
— Rep. Tony Cárdenas (@RepCardenas) February 19, 2015
So using figures from a 2011 National Journal survey of 288 top congressional staffers from House and Senate leaders, we compared the percentage of black, Hispanic, and Asian staffers with those percentages from the 2011 Congress. This is an imperfect survey and doesn't cover all of Congress -- it's also based on self-reporting of race -- but it's as good a barometer as exists.
Neither Congress nor its staff reflect actual demographics -- the U.S. is 13.2 percent black, 17.1 percent Hispanic or Latino, and 5.3 percent Asian, according to 2013 Census data -- but members of Congress are much more diverse than their staff, according to the study.
Democrats' staff were more diverse than Republicans', but not by much. Democratic staffs were 91 percent white, compared with 95 percent for Republicans, according to the National Journal Survey.
Turns out the voters are actually doing a better job electing a diverse Congress than Congress is of hiring a diverse array of top staffers. Their top staff, as it turns out, is about as diverse as the Academy.