Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Diversity on the Hill

So last week I spent some time in DC hoping to find myself some (not so gainful) employment. Jobs on the Hill are terrible. They pay about 25 starting and demand ~45 hours of work a week. I figure 2 hours a day for minyanim, 10 for work, 8 for sleep, 1 for commute, 2 for meals leaves one to read a book. Well there must be some incentives.

The thing that really struck me however was the lack of ethnic diversity on the Hill. I say two Black people (only one of whom was in a senators office) and one Indian, but no Latino/Hispanics that I could recognize. I was told that the percentage of minorities on the Hill reflects the number of minority elected officials. This strikes me as odd considering Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc. graduate more minorities than 2%.

Furthermore, while there are many Jews on the Hill, few frum ones wear a kippah. Now it is very hard to argue how many frum Jews there are (i.e. how many wore a kippah before they started working on the Hill), but there does seem to be a sense of homogeneity which appears to keep people from wanting to look different. One of my friends explained that a woman in a hijab might scare constituents in the Mid-West (or anywhere, for that matter), but how many constituents really see a congressman's back office?

Let's assume for the moment that any given class at Harvard graduates 25% minority students. Even if you were to argue that 5-10% of them are not as academically gifted as their white counterparts (which I only pose as a greatest lower bound for the sake of argument) then at least 15% of any "prestigious" field should be filled by minorities. As far as I could tell, less than 2% of employees on the Hill were from minority backgrounds. So where do these 15-25% of minority students go after graduation?


jacob said...

Not exactly. The answer to your question can be found at the begining of your post. Many of the underprivaleged "affirmative-action" admits are from poor backgrounds and cannot afford to chase a dream in DC making 25K a year. The Jews for the most part have that opportunity and dont have to think about supporting their families and communities.

That aside, there is much more to your post that I would like to comment on but it will have to wait until work is done when I will reply to posts that may now be old. I just want to say that you shouldnt complain about working 45 hours a week. That is not very much. I find this post to be a proof of my theory (to reference an old post that may not have been on this blog) of why people want to be academics. Ayin Sham.

Zev said...

Jacob, you are certainly right. 45 hrs is nothing, except that you are also being paid nothing.

I don't know if minority students cannot afford to live on 25k. It is possible, and looks very good on a resume, which is then capital in its own right (one of the reasons I would like to work on the Hill). How much can one expect to make with a BA and no experience? (Shutup Oren)

jacob said...

It isnt a matter of minorities living on 25K but poor people. Imagine graduating with loans and a family that you have to support. How much money can you send home on 25K? Poor people dont have the option of building resumes and at some point have to stop accumulating human capital and start working the capital they have.

A graduate looking to make money can become a paralegal and work overtime. The pay is quite good if you put in overtime hours on a consistent basis. there are many such examples.

miriam said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Yehuda said...

In Israel, jobs on Capitol Hills, as I like to call Jerusalem, typically start at 25 NIS an hour for about 45 hours a week also. Promotions are slow (because of this countries horrible tax laws) and it usually takes people several years of work before they are able not to count on their parents for help. In Washington you start at 25K and there is a whole lot of room for advancement. If you really wanted to be poor, you'd come over here.

Anonymous said...

what did i say wrong?

Zev said...

I contest an equivalence between minority students and the poor. Moreover, I posit that there exists a weaker association between minority students at Harvard and the poor than minority students and general and the poor.

You make a bold assumption as well. You are claiming that poor 20 somethings are culturally expected to send money home. Working at these jobs is not such a bad gig, if you expect to stay on for 5-8 years. Pay increases, there are great benefits (student loan repayment) and you have all sorts of mobility after leaving as a LD for one of these guys. I don't know how many jobs pay superbly well right out of college. Personally, my problem is that I am not interested for the long haul so they are less appealing to me. To say that it is purely financial thus seems a stretch to me.

I did, however, hear conjecture that the reason that there are few minorities is because they, by and large, cannot afford to work unpaid summer internships in DC, and thus have less of a chance of landing full time work. This seems reasonable as unpaid is certainly a much greater economic hardship than 25K. Even my parents have said they would refuse to support me at an unpaid internship. So economic reasons do have a proximate cause, but it still appears to me that there are other factors at play.