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Blogs / People

Why Diversity is Lagging in Hill Offices

October 4, 2012
While corporate America has made strides in bolstering racial diversity, the Hill lags behind, my colleague Julia Edwards reports.

There is no official census of Hill staffers, but Edwards points to National Journal's 2011 "Hill People" to show that only 7 percent of top aides identify themselves as people of color. In the private sector, about 12 percent of top positions are held by racial minorities. 

So why is racial diversity lacking on the Hill? Here's one possible explanation:

But many otherwise qualified minority applicants lack Hill experience because they never make it to the first rung of the legislative ladder: an internship. Most Capitol Hill internships are unpaid, which presents a barrier to potential staffers who cannot afford to spend a summer living in the expensive Washington metro area without a salary. Whites are more likely to be able to afford this sacrifice: In 2011, the poverty rate for whites was 9.8 percent, compared with 27.6 percent for blacks, 25.3 percent for Hispanics, and 12.3 percent for Asian-Americans, according to Census figures. 

Indeed, living in the Washington area is not cheap. The average monthly rent in D.C. is $1,501, which sure is a lot if you don't have a paycheck.

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