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Congressional staff of Mass. lawmakers skew whiter than average, data analysis shows

While the United States is roughly 60 percent white, Massachusetts is less diverse than average.Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — At a time of increasing scrutiny of diversity in hiring, nearly half of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, including a majority of its House lawmakers, have a whiter staff than the chamber’s average Democratic office, with some not meeting the diversity level of the state as a whole, a Globe data analysis has found.

The lack of racial representation is especially stark among senior staff. At least three-quarters of the most senior positions are held by white employees in most Massachusetts offices, and in at least four offices there were no people of color in top jobs, according to the most recent congressional staff data.

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Representatives Bill Keating and Jake Auchincloss have the least diverse staffs overall, including all-white senior leadership. Representatives Jim McGovern and Katherine Clark also had no staffers of color in their most senior positions during the 2021-22 congressional session, the period reviewed by the Globe, though Clark’s office noted her team in her leadership office in that period was significantly more diverse.

The most diverse offices in the delegation were those of Boston Representative Ayanna Pressley, whose staff was 24 percent white; Senator Elizabeth Warren, at 44 percent white; Senator Ed Markey, at 59 percent white; and Clark, at 62 percent white. Markey and Warren both significantly exceed the average staff diversity level for Senate Democrats, where 71 percent of those employed are white.

While every member of the all-Democratic delegation has a more diverse staff than the average House Republican — those offices average more than 90 percent white and the party has vilified diversity initiatives as divisive and biased against white people — experts with whom the Globe shared the data question whether Massachusetts’ lawmakers are hiring staff that best reflect all of their constituents.

“The perspectives and decisions of congressional staff help to shape, literally, the everyday lives of average Americans,” said LaShonda Brenson, senior researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, which bills itself as America’s Black think tank. “And so it’s especially important that there is not a lack of representation that exists within these key positions.”

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The Globe reviewed the staff lists for each Massachusetts lawmaker from 2021 and 2022, the last full congressional term, using publicly available employment information, as well as that compiled by the nonpartisan congressional data service Legistorm. The demographics of every full-time employee who worked within that time frame were tabulated, regardless of whether they worked the full two years. Interns were excluded. Data for 2023 was not yet available. Every office was given an opportunity to review their data.

Three offices were significantly less diverse than the average staff demographics for House Democrats in that time period, which was roughly 64 percent white. Additionally, there was so little racial diversity in those offices, they also fell behind the state’s demographics.

Keating’s staff was nearly 88 percent white. Auchincloss’s office was 80 percent white. And Salem Representative Seth Moulton’s office was nearly 77 percent white. Keating’s office said they do not ask staff about their racial identity, and Moulton’s office said it makes a concerted effort to seek a diverse applicant pool for every job opening and continues to explore strategies to improve on those efforts. Auchincloss’s office declined to comment.

While the United States is roughly 60 percent white, Massachusetts is less diverse than average, with a population 74 percent white. Keating, Auchincloss, and Moulton also represent the three least diverse districts in the state, according to numbers compiled by Data USA, a tool to analyze government data built by MIT and Deloitte.

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Two other Massachusetts offices — Springfield Representative Richard Neal and Westford Representative Lori Trahan — came in above the House Democratic average with white employees making up 70 percent of their staff. Trahan’s office noted that it had two fellows last Congress with salaries paid for by an outside organization, one who was of Asian descent and one who was nonbinary.

Brenson, who studies the issue for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, said that historically the Senate has done significantly worse than the House as it relates to the hiring and promotion of people of color — especially Black employees — in top positions.

A few other offices were close to the average. Worcester Representative Jim McGovern’s office and South Boston Representative Stephen Lynch’s office were both about two-thirds white.

When it came to gender diversity, offices were more evenly split.

Every congressional office in the delegation except Lynch’s and Pressley’s had a majority of women working on staff, as is typical in both the House and Senate. Pressley’s was evenly split in addition to one nonbinary staffer, and Lynch’s office had one more man on staff than women. Four offices — Auchincloss’s, Clark’s, Trahan’s, and Warren’s — were staffed by more than 60 percent women.

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The Globe also examined the demographics of senior positions in the offices. For the analysis, senior staffers were defined as chiefs of staff, deputy chiefs of staff, district or state directors, legislative directors, and senior advisers or chief counsels. Junior staffers were defined as low-level or entry-level positions, and mid-level staff was everything in between. Some offices individually disputed the definition of senior staff, but the Globe applied the same categories across its analysis.

Lynch’s office was the only one with an all-male senior staff, but many offices had much less racial diversity at their senior level than on their staff as a whole.

Auchincloss, Clark, Keating, and McGovern had all-white senior staff and Trahan’s was 90 percent white. Only three offices had senior staff that weren’t three-quarters white or greater: Pressley, Warren, and Lynch. Clark’s office, however, provided its own analysis of its 2023 staff, which includes a significantly bigger footprint since her promotion to the number two position in Democratic House leadership, and calculated its current senior staff as now 57 percent white.

Every chief of staff in the delegation was white, though there was gender parity.

Overall, diversity generally increased for offices as staff became more junior.

Sarah Drory, a congressional staffer and spokesperson for the Congressional Workers Union, said the issue of senior staff is a particular focus of the union organizers, who recently unionized in Markey’s office.

“Those are the people who are making hiring decisions, who are making decisions at the top in terms of policy, and it’s extremely important to have those people bring experiences that are going to encourage Congress to be a more welcoming and diverse and productive workplace,” Drory said.

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Congressional Black Associates, a group that promotes the wellbeing of Black staff on the Hill, echoed the importance of including a range of viewpoints.

“Diversity of staff better ensures that the voices of many across this nation, particularly Black and brown people that have historically been marginalized, are present at the decision-making table and that our elected officials are well-informed about the impact of their decisions,” the group said in a statement.

Many of the lawmakers with the most diverse offices noted that it was a priority.

“It’s important that our office reflect the diversity of Massachusetts and that constituents of all backgrounds are seen, heard, and well-represented,” Warren said in a statement.

Pressley’s office volunteered other ways that staff identify themselves beyond what’s in the data, including Afro-Latina, LGBTQ, Muslim, first-generation immigrant, and asylum seeker.

“Our office aims to govern in close partnership with community, and building a team that is representative of the people we serve is a critical piece of that work,” Pressley said in a statement.

Clark’s office noted that the issue has been a key focus for her.

“It’s one of my top priorities to ensure that everyone feels seen, welcome, and able to participate in all levels of our government,” Clark said in a statement.

McGovern’s office also noted it has two LGBTQ staffers, and that as Rules Committee chair he created the House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which promotes diversity among House staff, and which Republicans are now trying to eliminate in the appropriations process.

“For too long the halls of power have been reserved for certain people with certain backgrounds — and our country has been worse off for it,” McGovern said in a statement.


Tal Kopan can be reached at tal.kopan@globe.com. Follow her @talkopan. Jorja Siemons can be reached at jorja.siemons@globe.com. Follow her @JorjaSiemons.