New Data from the Center for American Women and Politics
The Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP), a unit of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, has released a new report that provides a demographic overview of appointees to New Jersey’s powerful boards, commissions, and authorities. In From Data to Diversity: The Demographics of New Jersey’s Appointed Officials, completed in coordination with our colleagues at the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling (ECPIP), CAWP takes the first step in collecting and organizing a publicly accessible database of New Jersey appointed officials with information about their gender and race/ethnicity. This report is the product of legislation passed by the New Jersey Legislature and signed into law by Governor Phil Murphy, as was the preceding report in this series regarding elected officials.
Though there were structural limitations for this project that resulted in low contact and response rates, CAWP researchers were able to collect demographic information on 57 of the state’s most influential and powerful boards, commissions, and authorities. Key findings include:
- White men account for 44.6% of appointed officials on selected boards and commissions included in the study. They are only 27% of the state’s population. No other group in the state achieves appointed representation exceeding or even commensurate with their population size.
- Women make up just 33.1% of appointed officials included in the study.
- Asian American/Pacific Islanders and Latino women and men in New Jersey face the greatest disparities between representation in government and representation in the population. Asian American/Pacific Islanders hold under 3% of the state’s appointed offices despite comprising just over 11% of the population. Latino men and women comprise 22% of the population but are only 6% of appointees.
Data collection challenges that arose from this project’s sponsoring legislation as it was signed into law narrowed the intended scope of this research. These limitations created obstacles in both establishing contact with and securing responses from appointed officials, as well as, in some cases, difficulty determining which boards were currently active or defunct. In order to ensure accessibility of data necessary to expand this research to its full scope and undergird its foundations as an ongoing project, CAWP makes the following recommendations:
- State government should collect demographic information about state appointees, either on the appointment application forms or upon appointment (perhaps through mandatory ethics forms) and keep the data in a centralized and secure digital database (as opposed to being maintained separately within each department).
- The state administration should build and maintain a centralized database of all boards and commissions and their current members and make this information publicly available.
- Appointees’ demographic information should be provided publicly.
- On the state’s main boards and commissions webpage, each individual board listing should include a link to the board’s website and the end date for each board member’s term, contact information for a staff member or representative, and board status indicating whether it is active or inactive.
- Vacancies represent an opportunity for appointing authorities to enhance diversity on boards and commissions, and New Jersey should follow the lead of other states by publicizing vacancies and application information to a wide audience.
- Legislatively-mandated diversity efforts can ensure broad demographic representation on boards and commissions. Gender balance legislation has been introduced in recent legislative sessions and can serve as a model for balancing boards by a variety of demographic factors.
Daniel De Simone: email@example.com; 760.703.0948