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How to Bolster Diversity on the Hill

In Washington, the U.S. Capitol dome is silhouetted as the sun rises Monday, Oct. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

October 18, 2012

Democrats, particularly on the Senate side, have done more to actively recruit racial minorities to work on the Hill than have Republicans. 

But is creating a resume bank or hiring a minority recruiter the answer to bolstering diversity on the Hill? My colleague Julia Edwards' latest story includes an interesting comment from Brandon Andrews, former staffer for Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla. Andrews, who is black, was a rarity on the Hill since he worked for a Republican, and most people of color work in Democrats' offices. From the story:

"Diversity issues will not be fixed by hiring more minorities. There are significant economic barriers that prevent people with diverse backgrounds and experience [from coming here],"  [Andrews] said. "As I see it, the Hill's diversity issue is an effect. The causes are privileged pathways to the Hill, relatively low pay, and the lack of candidates in a personal and professional network."

Having himself gone from homelessness to the Hill, Andrews thinks that until congressional offices diversify their hiring networks and offer more paid internships, the paths from low-income and minority communities will too rarely lead to the Capitol.

We've previously noted that the crucial entry-level position on the Hill -- an internship -- isn't feasible for young people who can't afford living in D.C. for the summer, where the average rent is about $1,500. And that tends to be more of a hardship for racial minorities than for whites.

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