our research

Who Congress Pays

After reviewing over 8,500 pages of payroll records from the House and Senate, we’re releasing the first-ever audit of the Congressional Internship Fund, “Who Congress Pays: Analysis of Lawmakers’ Use of Intern Allowances in the 116th Congress.” Our report examines which offices used the funds, who they hired, and how much interns were paid.

We found most offices used their funds, but not equitably. Over 76% of paid interns were White, and went to private universities.

Before 2017, only 10 percent of congressional interns were paid. Since then, we’ve convinced Congress to allocate $48 million for lawmakers to pay their interns.

Equity in the administration of paid internships means more transparent hiring, promotion of remote internships, expanded funding for stipends, increased engagement with and recruitment from communities of color, and prioritization of need-based applicants.

View the Full Report

Experience Doesn’t Pay the Bills in California

In 2019, Pay Our Interns was inspired by Victoria Pfau, an unpaid intern in the California State Legislature. As part of a college midterm in public policy, Pfau chose to tackle issues around unpaid internships, based on her own experiences. With our guidance, Pfau drafted sample legislation called, “The Pay Our Interns Act: Investing in California’s Future Leaders.” Her writing inspired us to launch efforts for a paid internship program in the California State Legislature.

Legislative internships create pathways to careers in public service, but unpaid internships create barriers to those pathways. Our latest research examines the state of legislative internships in California, the majority of which remain unpaid. We’re calling on the Legislature to create a paid internship program, which prioritizes funds for low-income students who have the most to gain, and creates a centralized system of support for interns in the workplace.

View the Full Report

The Color of Congress:

Racial Representation Among Interns in the U.S. House of Representatives

We teamed up with Dr. James Jones,  lead researcher of the 2016 report for the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, to understand how interns are racially represented in the House of Representatives.

Congressional internships pave the way to establishing lifelong political careers. But our research shows  a lawmaker’s race, political party, and the demographic composition of their congressional district all have a strong effect on whom they hire as interns. The majority of congressional interns of color work for members of one of the three minority caucuses, whereas White members of both political parties are more likely to hire White interns, which essentially hands White students an important employment credential. We’re calling on Congress to democratize the administration of congressional internships with expanded funding for stipends, increased engagement with and recruitment from communities of color, prioritization of need-based applicants, and more transparent hiring practices.

View our Full Report

Lack of Transparency Creates Barriers for Young Professionals

Why we’re urging members of the House to update their website information.
Young professionals seeking internships in Washington D.C. experience a variety of barriers in their search process. Compensation is one of the most important factors taken into consideration, and our research reveals only 9% of offices in the House of Representatives provide information about payment of interns on their websites. This lack of transparency is a disservice to people who require payment for their service and disproportionately affects underrepresented communities. We’re calling on members to update their websites with more accuracy and transparency.

View our Full Statement


An internship for a congressperson is the quintessential prerequisite for a political career, particularly if the intern chooses to work in our government later in life. While the internship is an undeniably invaluable experience and is critical for professional growth, an internship in Congress will cost each intern upwards of $6,000, according to an extensive breakdown of the total costs of an out-of-state internship by Time journalist Alexandra Mondalek. The overwhelming majority of internships offered in both the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are unpaid, creating a situation where the majority of individuals able to work Congressional internships come from families of higher economic status or suffer crippling financial pressure.

We talked to congressmen all over the hill about the internships they offered. We have collected data to create this full list of who pays and who doesn’t.

View the Congressional Report

operating on free labor

A study of Unpaid Internships in the NYC Council

Inspired by Pay Our Interns Congressional Report titled Experience Doesn’t Pay the Bills, an NYU Wagner Capstone team researched the effects of unpaid internships in the New York City Council. Pay Our Interns is proud to support the efforts of these students to shed light on the inequity created by unpaid internships and hope that this work inspires others to advocate for paid internships in their own communities.

Read the Letter

Most UN internships are unpaid.

In February, Rep. Joaquin Castro (TX-20) introduced the Department of State Student Internship Program Act; its companion was introduced by Sens. Cory Booker (NJ) and Tim Scott (SC) in early March. The bill requires the State Department to pay its interns, and provide housing and travel assistance–a huge win for qualified young people interested in foreign service.

Like the State Department, internships at the United Nations create pathways to careers in foreign policy, but unpaid internships present barriers to those pathways. In collaboration with the Fair Internship Initiative in Geneva, we’re calling on Department of State Secretary Blinken and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield to support the reform of the UN internship program, to include compensation for interns,which will allow for a more diverse pipeline of American diplomats, well-prepared to represent our interests abroad.

Read the Letter