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People of Color Underrepresented as Leaders in State Governments
UAlbany study finds eight states appoint no Latinos; ten states appoint few African Americans

Contact: Catherine Herman (518) 437-4980

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 9, 2005) -- The number of people of color in top-ranking, state government appointed positions is disproportionately low compared to their numbers in the population, according to Democracy Unrealized: The Underrepresentation of People of Color as Appointed Policy Leaders in State Governments, a report released this week by the University at Albany’s Center for Women in Government & Civil Society. While the 2000 Census showed that women and men of color constitute 32 percent of the population, in 2004 they held 16 percent of top-ranking executive positions appointed by the nation's governors.

The study, which counted only those states in which the key group totaled five or more percent of the population, showed that African Americans held an equitable share of appointed policy leadership posts in 11 of the 29 states surveyed (Illinois; Indiana; Kansas; Kentucky; Massachusetts; Michigan; Missouri; Pennsylvania; Tennessee; Virginia; Wisconsin). In eight other states African Americans held at least two-thirds of leadership posts to which they would be appointed if their share of policy leadership positions mirrored their population.

People of color considered in the report reflect the U.S. Census groupings of African American, Latino, Asian American/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Native Alaskan.

Across the nation, Latino appointees held the lowest share of executive positions at four percent, relative to their nearly 13 percent share of the U.S. population. In only five of the 23 states with the requisite Latino populations, Latino appointees held two-thirds or more of the leadership posts as a proportion to their population. In 15 states, Latino appointees held less than half such positions. In eight of the 23 states surveyed, no Latinos were appointed to top policy positions. Those states were Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Utah.

As was the case with the Latino population, very few Asian American/Pacific Islanders and American Indians/Native Alaskans were appointed to top state leadership posts. However, the numbers of Latina and African American women appointees in the 50 states increased from 12 to 28 and from 47 to 70, respectively, between 1998 and 2004.

“Whether we look at how many people of color currently hold top leadership appointee positions, or the trends over time in gubernatorial appointments, there are still significant gaps in the representativeness of executive branch leadership in state governments,” said Judith Saidel, executive director of the Center and the study’s project director.

Hawaii and Washington were the only two states where Asian Americans achieved policy-making positions reflective of their proportion in the population. Of the 25 Asian Americans appointed by governors nationwide, 14, or 56 percent, were appointed by the governor of Hawaii. Between 1998 and 2004, the number of Asian Americans declined in both department head and top advisor positions.

Among executives of individual state agencies and departments, nearly 70 percent of all appointees at the helm of civil and human rights commissions were persons of color. The agency type with the lowest percentage of appointed people of color was natural resources/environmental conservation/agriculture, at five percent. In 2004, more Latinos and Asian Americans served as appointed heads of budget, finance, and administration agencies than of any other agency type.

The report concludes that while the 2000 Census recorded substantial changes in the racial and ethnic composition of the U.S. population, the demographics of executive branch leaders changed very little between 1998 and 2004. The percentage of African American appointees increased by 2.7 points. Latino appointees gained 1.8 percentage points. In 2004 the percentages of Asian American and American Indian appointees in appointed positions fell below 1998 levels.

Original data on policy leaders appointed by current governors were collected from the states via a mailed survey and follow-up phone calls as needed between May and October 2004. For the purpose of the study, “policy leaders” include department heads (heads of departments, agencies, offices, boards, commissions, and authorities) and top advisors in governors’ offices (titles such as chief of staff, government liaison, legal advisor, press secretary).

For copies of this report and for more information about the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society, visit the Center’s web site at

Report author and Center for Women in Government & Civil Society Director Judith Saidel is available for commentary and analysis; call (518) 442-3896.

Copies of this report are available in PDF format at:


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