COMP NEWS – A recent report on congressional staff pay has found that 8% of staffers earn less than a living wage.

Working for Congress is a lot of things: exciting at times, boring during others; sometimes honorable, sometimes less so; equal parts an ego trip and ego check. But no one says it’s a particularly lucrative line of work. For decades, getting your start on the Hill also meant getting your start on some serious credit card debt. 

 

But a new report on congressional staff pay from Issue One suggests things have improved dramatically in recent years, finding that the percentage of aides working for less than a living wage has fallen since 2020. 

 

Congress boosted the Members’ Representational Allowance, or MRA, which includes staff payrolls, by 21 percent in fiscal 2022. And that same year, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi implemented a pay floor for House staff that set a $45,000 minimum salary. 

Previously, an analysis of staffers’ wages found that 13% of them made less than a living wage.

 Those moves, plus increases to senators’ office budgets, came shortly after Issue One released an initial report that found about 13 percent of all staff made less than a living wage, including 70 percent of entry-level staff assistants.

 

Relying on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living wage calculator to determine the cost of eking it out in D.C., along with wage data from LegiStorm, the new report found remarkable improvements. Hill staffers earning below a living wage dropped to just 4.6 percent in 2023, including 28 percent of staff assistants.

 

The shift was more dramatic in the House, where 2.8 percent of staff fall below the living wage threshold, compared with 7.6 percent of Senate aides; for staff assistants, those figures are 20 percent and 40 percent, respectively.  

 

“The typical House staff assistant now makes roughly $4,500 more per year than the typical Senate staff assistant,” the report notes.

 

“The pay floor that the House of Representatives instituted in September 2022 has helped improve the lives of House staffers,” said the report’s lead author, Michael Beckel, a research director at Issue One. “The Senate should follow the House’s leadership and implement a pay floor.”

To read more about senate aides making a living wage on Capitol Hill, click here.

For more Comp News, see our recent posts.

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