The federal workforce looks more like the country than you might think
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The federal workforce looks more like the country than you might think

May 10, 2023 | Updated on May 24, 2023

In the Partnership for Public Service’s latest trust in government poll, 54% of respondents said they did not believe that people like them work in the federal government. Younger Americans, those without a college degree and Republicans were especially likely to support this view.

However, the federal civil service is more representative of the population it serves than many Americans might think.

First, most federal employees do not live in the Washington, D.C., area. According to the latest data from the Office of Personnel Management, 80% of full-time federal employees live and serve outside of the Beltway in communities across the country. In fact, many are in states that lean Republican or where Republicans run competitively. At the end of fiscal 2022, Texas, Florida and Georgia were home to a combined 13% of federal employees.

Second, while racial disparities exist in federal leadership positions and in other professional roles, the federal workforce as a whole is about as racially diverse as the U.S. population.

At the end of fiscal 2022, just over 39% of civil servants were people of color. By comparison, this group composes nearly 41% of the U.S. population, according to recent Census Bureau data. Similarly, while underrepresented in federal leadership, the overall percentage of female employees in the federal workforce is not far behind the broader population.

Educational attainment is also an area where the federal workforce mirrors the nation. Across its workforce of more than 2 million people, the government employs hundreds of thousands of civil servants without a college degree. As of September 2022, 46% of full-time federal employees—and 52% of the overall U.S. population—had “some college” or less of formal education.

However, younger Americans are right—there are not a lot of people in their age demographic in the federal workforce. At the end of fiscal 2022, just 7% of the full-time civil service was under the age of 30 compared with 38% of the overall population and 20% of the employed U.S. labor force.

Overall, the findings from our poll show that the federal government has a perception problem. But it is a problem that can be solved in part by highlighting the diversity of the federal workforce and the complicated problems they work to solve in communities across America every day.

In the end, recognizing these realities may help many Americans see themselves in their government and prompt them to rethink their preconceived notions of it.

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