By Jason Lange
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – When Donald Trump faced criticism from advocacy groups for not including more women and minorities in his cabinet last January, the incoming administration promised that the lower rungs of the bureaucracy would ultimately look more diverse.
Now, recently available government data on the ethnic and gender make-up of the broader Trump administration shows that with over 1,000 mid-level political jobs filled by mid-year the appointees look much like the top leadership: mostly white and male.
Office of Personnel Management numbers analyzed by Reuters show that 88 percent of such appointees were non-Hispanic white and 62 percent were men.
By comparison, in the final year of Barack Obama’s Democratic administration, non-Hispanic whites made up 67 percent of that group and men accounted for 47 percent – closer to what the U.S. population looks like. Non-Hispanic whites account for 61 percent and men make up 49 percent, according to 2016 census data. (Graphic: http://tmsnrt.rs/2xOf1ip)
“This administration so far has not in any direct sense prioritized diversity,” said Max Stier, president of the Partnership for Public Service, a non-partisan group that tracks federal hiring, when presented with Reuters’ findings.
Out of the Trump administration’s 24 top cabinet-level positions, 17 are filled by white men.
Asked to comment on the mid-level personnel data, White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said Trump had a long history of promoting women and pointed to last week’s nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to lead the Department of Homeland Security.
“He will continue to elevate and empower women to top posts in his administration,” Walters said. She declined to discuss Trump’s views on the ethnicity of political appointees.
One day before Trump took office on Jan. 20, his then-spokesman Sean Spicer responded to criticism of the cabinet’s lineup by saying that members were picked on their merits and appointments across the broader federal bureaucracy would satisfy demands for more diversity.
“People (will) look at and respect the level of diversity throughout his entire administration,” he told reporters.
The mid-level political positions, known as “Schedule C” and “non-career SES” posts, numbered 1,051 in June, according to most recent data published in late September.
How many more of those jobs have been filled since and whether their demographics has changed will be known at the end of the year, when third quarter numbers are expected.
The positions include office managers, aides, policy experts and schedulers who are hired by top appointees, such as cabinet secretaries and their deputies. The mid-level bureaucrats act as a link between political leadership and over two million career civil servants who tend to work for multiple administrations.
In recent decades, such jobs would account for about half of some 4,000 positions that get filled anew with every change of administration. The OPM does not publish data on the more senior positions.
The personnel office has published data sorted by gender that goes back to 1998 and by ethnicity since 2006, allowing comparisons with only two past administrations.
Some political analysts say the profile of the new group of mid-level officials largely reflects a lower share of minorities among Republican voters and the fact that the Republican party has weaker ties to organizations that promote diversity and gender equality.
“It’s just a smaller set of folks who organize around those things and are connected to the Republican party,” said David Lewis, a political scientist at Vanderbilt University who studies presidential appointments.
In fact, this administration’s numbers are similar to those under the previous Republican administration of George W. Bush. Between 2006-2008, the only Bush years covered by OPM gender, race and ethnicity data, men made up 60 percent of mid-level staff and 88 percent described themselves as non-Hispanic white.
However, the United States has become more diverse over the past decade, making the numbers for this administration less representative of America’s demographic makeup than was the case under Bush.
In 2008, the last full year of the Bush administration, non-Hispanic whites made up 65 percent of the general population. Now that share is 4 percentage points lower, U.S. Census figures show.
Among Republican registered voters, the share of those identifying themselves as non-Hispanic white has edged down from 88 percent in 2008 to 86 percent just before the 2016 presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center.
Women also have a larger share of overall U.S. jobs than during the Bush years. Their 38 percent share of mid-level political jobs in the current administration is a notch below the 40 percent average they had in 2001-2008. In 1998-2000, the final years of Bill Clinton’s presidency captured in the OPM data, that share averaged 51 percent.
(Reporting by Jason Lange; Editing by David Chance and Tomasz Janowski)