New CBC study does, or doesn’t, shed light on racism on the Hill

The Congressional Black Caucus just released a study which, they say, shows that white committee chairs in the House hire fewer black staffers than black committee chairs. (Of course, you could spin the study another way: that black committee chairs in the House hire fewer white staffers than white committee chairs.)

It’s really not clear if there’s a problem, or where the problem lies, until you look at the exact numbers:

The 31-person Democratic staff of the House Agriculture Committee and the 24-person Democratic staff of the House Rules Committee, for example, each have a single black aide. Conversely, the Homeland Security and Oversight and Government Reform Committees — both run by African American chairmen — have Democratic staffs that are 45.5 percent and 44.4 percent black, respectively.

When blacks are 13.5% of the US population, one black aide on an entire 31-person committee – i.e., 3% of the staff – strikes me as more than a bit scant, so the CBC has a point. But 45% of the staff on a committee chaired by a black member of Congress is black? According to the 2007 census data released last year, here is the minority make-up of America:

Washington — Slightly more than one-third of the population of the United States — 34 percent — claims “minority” racial or ethnic heritage, a jump of 11 percent from 2000….

There are 45.5 million Hispanics living in the United States, accounting for 15 percent of the U.S. population. Blacks comprise the second-largest minority group, with 40.7 million (13.5 percent), followed by Asians, with 15.2 million (5 percent).

While I’m not one to suggest that congressional committees need to match exactly how many whites, blacks, Asians, hispanics, women etc. are in the population, it would be nice if they at least got in the ballpark. At least as it concerns minority representation (which begs the question – even if you think that minorities should be represented, more or less, according to their numbers in the population at large, does the same apply to white representation?)

Whites are around 65% of the population, according to the 2007 census. African-Americans are 13.5% of the country. Yet, African American committee chairs are giving as much as 45% of their staff jobs to blacks. Is that understandable affirmative action that makes up for past discrimination, or does the racial hiring problem on the Hill cut both ways? What do you think? And does it change your view to know that, in fact, African-Americans have more representatives on committees overall than their numbers in the population? (Basically because the black committee chairs overcompensate while the white committee chairs undercompensate.)

Overall, the survey found that African Americans account for a percentage of committee staff — 18.7 percent — that is higher than the 12.8 percent of the national population that is black.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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