Congressional interns

Most Congressional Interns are White, New Study Reveals

In news that won’t come as a surprise to many, a new study from a D.C.-based advocacy organization, Pay Our Interns has found that most young adults interning in congressional offices are white.

In a review of more than 8,500 pages of payroll data tracking interns who had paid positions between April and September of 2019, the organization found that individuals getting paid internships were overwhelmingly white. While 52% of undergraduates nationally identify as white, 76% of congressional interns were white, the group’s research showed. Black and Latinx students were especially underrecognized, comprising just 6.7 and 7.9% of paid Capitol Hill interns, respectively, the group said. 

The finding represented an ongoing problem in our nation’s capital, experts say.

“Congressional staffers aren’t as diverse as the nation they serve, and the problem starts with the lowly intern,” reported Jim Saksa of the congressional watchdog news tracker, Roll Call. “While interns rarely have much impact on lawmaking, they often go on to more important positions that can actually affect legislation.” 

Carlos Mark Vera started the political intern advocacy group, Pay Our Interns in 2016 after his own experience working as an unpaid intern in D.C. And he has said he’s not shocked that the “pay-your-dues culture around unpaid internships makes it harder for poorer kids to get their feet in the door” — especially when studies show that, on average, Black and Latinx families have 15% to 20% less wealth than white families.

James Jones, a sociology professor at Rutgers University-Newark agrees. Jones worked with Pay Our Interns on the study and was the report’s main author.

“I’m not surprised that Congress is white-dominated, right from the top or the bottom,” he told Saksa.

According to Saksa, even though Democrats tend to hire more interns of color than Republicans, white members of congress mostly employ white interns, regardless of their political party. 

“We found 875 Black, brown, Asian American Pacific Islander and Native American interns that were paid,” Vera said. “That was not a thing a couple of years ago. So, there is progress being made.”

Jones said that while the improvement of inclusion efforts in recent years makes him hopeful, his and Vera’s findings indicate a clear need for improved data transparency and accountability within government offices and agencies.

“The issue really here is about transparency and how Congress operates,” Jones said. “That is what really distinguishes Congress from other types of workplaces and allows it to be white-dominated,” noting that while lawmakers force federal agencies to track employee demographic data, they themselves are exempt from the same requirements.

According to Saksa, the lack of transparency could soon change, “thanks to an amendment California Democratic Rep. Pete Aguilar added to last year’s spending omnibus directing the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer to track intern demographics and pay information.”


Related: For more recent diversity and inclusion news, click here.


Latest News

Attorney General Merrick Garland

Department of Justice Launches Investigation of Minneapolis Police Department Following Derek Chauvin Conviction

One day after the conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd, Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that the U.S. Justice Department would now be launching a full investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, looking into possible patterns of discrimination and use of excessive force among officers…

Kelly Abcarian To Helm Measurement and Impact Group for NBCUniversal Advertising and Partnerships

Originally published at Comcast NBCUniversal ranked No. 7 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020.   On April 21, NBCUniversal’s Advertising and Partnerships division announced the appointment of Kelly Abcarian to the role of Executive Vice President, Measurement & Impact. An industry-renowned advanced advertising leader, Abcarian will spearhead the…

Cox Communications logo on screen.

Cox Invested Nearly $1 Billion in Sustainability

Originally published at Cox Communications ranked No. 17 on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2020. On April 22, Cox Enterprises released Making Our Mark, its collective impact report, which details the company’s investment of nearly $1 billion in sustainable businesses and technologies, and more than…