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Fun With Numbers (At The Expense of The Washington Post)



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The Washington Post has an article today on its “Federal Page,” the gist of which is that the Bush administration has adopted new guidelines that will make it harder to prove discrimination in the federal workforce, notwithstanding the fact that women and minorities there are “underrepresented.”

But, with respect to minorities, the numbers don’t add up. According to the Post article, which focuses on blacks and Latinos, their respective shares of the federal workforce are: African American men, 8 percent; African American women, 10 percent, and Hispanic men and women, 6 percent. But “in American society,” says that Post, African Americans and Hispanics make up 26 percent. Q.E.D.? Nope.

Even if we accept these figures, it means that the total of all African Americans and Hispanics in the federal workforce is 8+10+6 = 24 percent, versus a general population total of 26 percent, which is not much of a discrepancy.

But let’s not accept these figures (I’m going to rely now on the federal Office for Personnel Management’s FY 2003 report to Congress, the most recent available). Instead of using “American society” numbers–which will include children, retirees, and others not in the workforce–let’s use the civilian labor force numbers. For that, African Americans and Hispanics are 10.4 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively, which adds up to 23.5 percent, which is now a little LESS than the 24 percent federal workforce percentage asserted by the Post (the OPM figure is actually 24.6 percent).

And it’s actually even worse than that. One is generally ineligible for federal civilian employment unless one is a U.S. citizen. Relative to the rest of the population, a high percentage of Hispanics are immigrants and either unnaturalized or even undocumented. Indeed, about 30 percent of all Hispanics in the United States are noncitizens. So if we subtract out this percentage of Hispanics, we are left with a benchmark of 19.6 percent in the civilian labor force of blacks and Hispanics, to compare with the federal workforce figure of 24 percent.

So the aggregate figure of African Americans and Hispanics in the federal workforce indicates that they are actually “overrepresented” there, not “underrepresented”—by more than 25 percent, if we use OPM’s numbers.



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