Controller’s Office: Whites Are Overrepresented in Philadelphia’s City Workforce

A report released on Wednesday by city controller Rebecca Rhynhart found troubling numbers across most city departments — and a particularly stark disparity in the District Attorney’s Office.

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(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

City controller Rebecca Rhynhart released a report on Wednesday assessing diversity among the city-hired workforce. The main findings? White employees are overrepresented relative to Philadelphia’s overall population — and some individual offices in particular have startlingly high percentages of white employees (and highly paid white employees).

The controller’s report looked at the city’s 4,600 “exempt” employees, a status given to those who are hired by the city rather than through the Civil Service system. The review, using data compiled from the city’s legacy payroll system, specifically covers the racial breakdown at the end of fiscal year 2018 and includes four categories: all exempt employees, exempt employees hired in FY18, exempt employees with salaries greater than $90,000, and new hires with salaries greater than $90,000.

According to the analysis, in departments under the Mayor’s Office, 48.2 percent of the exempt workforce is white. For comparison, Philadelphia’s population is roughly 34 percent white and 66 percent non-white, according to 2018 census data. That non-white number includes roughly 43 percent black or African American residents, nearly 15 percent Hispanic or Latino residents, and nearly 8 percent Asian residents.

Apart from the Mayor’s Office, the elected offices with the two largest workforces consisting of exempt employees are the First Judicial District and the District Attorney’s Office, which reported 59.7 percent and 71.4 percent white workforces, respectively, in 2018. Of the 72 employees in the District Attorney’s Office who made more than $90,000 in FY18, roughly 82 percent were white, 12.5 percent were black, about 4 percent were Hispanic, and 1 percent were Asian. Of the 18 employees hired in FY18 who made more than $90,000 that year, 66.7 percent were white.

Offices in the mayoral administration with the highest population of white employees include the Free Library of Philadelphia (80 percent), Sustainability (78 percent), Planning and Development (71 percent), and the Board of Ethics (also 71 percent). The Police Department, the Office of Public Property, and the Office of Human Relations all recorded a 67 percent white workforce. However, it’s important to note that offices with fewer than roughly 20 employees (like the Free Library, with five employees; the Office of Sustainability, with nine employees; the Board of Ethics, with seven employees; the Office of Public Property, with 12 employees; and the Office of Human Relations, with just three employees) lack a sufficient sample size. Jolene Nieves Byzon, a spokesperson for the Controller’s Office, warned that if “the sample is too low, there can be statistical anomalies.”

Across the city’s exempt workforce, Hispanic and Latino employees formed the most underrepresented group, followed by black employees and Asian employees. And the overrepresentation of white employees became more stark when looking at exempt employees with salaries greater than $90,000.

The Mayor’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion has released annual diversity reports since 2016, which gather similar data pertaining to the diversity among employees in the Mayor’s Office. The office has said it’s working to address racial disparities in its workforce.

The Controller’s Office said the information released on Wednesday is meant to serve as a “baseline” for a more in-depth report coming next year. In that review, the Controller’s Office will examine whether departments follow diverse hiring practices laid out by the city.

You can view the diversity review findings released on Wednesday here.