Tag Archives: Congress

The Partisan Gap Amongst Female Politicians is Likely to Get Worse

If I’m being honest, when I first read the title of this journal article “A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States,” I didn’t think twice. Pew often publishes surveys/research that seemed to indicate that the gap between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, with regard to women candidates, was very unequal. As a result, I didn’t expect to be surprised when reading the journal article. However, there was one section that I think is especially important [Emphasis Added]:

Previous studies demonstrating single digit gender gaps in US party identification have not been able to explain the much larger gap when it comes to US elected officials. But representatives do not emerge from the public at large: they are disproportionately individuals with high education, high occupational prestige, and clear partisan preferences.

The researchers are implying that the people who run for office aren’t usually representative of the population at large (something we already knew). The important part here, though, is that they used this assumption to extrapolate to future Congress’s [Emphasis Added]:

By estimating the gender composition of this select group by partisanship, we find that the partisan gender gap is much larger among the kinds of citizens who tend to become representatives and that the emergence of this gap was contemporaneous with the historical emergence of a partisan gender gap in the US House.

Meaning, amongst those people who are more likely to seek political office, there is a larger gender gap than there is amongst the general population. Taking this one step further [Emphasis Added]:

Given the current associations between gender, partisanship, and other attributes among the public, the data suggest that future generational replacement may exacerbate the already significant gap in women’s descriptive representation between the parties, potentially reshaping the behavior of each party’s elected officials, the quality of representation available to diverse members of the public, and opinions of the public toward the Republican and Democratic parties.

Translation: if things continue as they are, the gender gap between Democrats and Republicans is likely to get worse — much worse — and it’s already pretty bad.

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Given how things can shift from year-to-year (or session-to-session), it’s hard to too confident in categorically saying that the Democrats will continue to have more women in their ranks than the Republicans. However, the data certainly seem to point to things not getting better.

While my views tend to lean to the liberal side of the spectrum, I’d still like to see more women represented in the Republican party. They are one of the two dominant (only? viable?) parties in the US and if there’s only one party that’s represented by women, that won’t necessarily lead to the best decisions for women or for Americans (and by extension, citizens of the world in general).

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Assuming that Hillary Clinton is able to become the first woman POTUS, I’d be really curious to see the result of a longitudinal study on women in politics. Theoretically, by having a Madam President, there’d be a role model for young women to aspire to. So, I’d want to test the attitudes of young women (pre-teens and teens) every year for the next 20+ years to see if there is an increase in the number of young women who aspire to be Congresswomen, Senators, and maybe even President of the United States! My hypothesis is that there’d be an increase in the desire amongst the people tested, but as the research earlier in this post alluded to, in order for there to be an increase in the number of women in politics, there needs to be an increase in the number of women who are more likely to run for President from that group of people.

ResearchBlogging.orgCrowder-Meyer, M., & Lauderdale, B. (2014). A partisan gap in the supply of female potential candidates in the United States Research & Politics, 1 (1) DOI: 10.1177/2053168014537230

Is It Time to Pay Politicians More?

A few months ago, I saw this very argument made in Slate. At first, I’m sure you’re doing a double-take? Why would we pay them more? They are hardly doing the job that we elected them to do in the first place. Why would we reward failure, stagnation, and an inability to get stuff done? That’s absurd!

All natural reactions, yes, but when you take a second to think about it, the idea isn’t that bat-crap crazy. For instance, consider the Governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. Josh Barro over at Business Insider makes the case that the Governor is underpaid. Why? Well, look to the incentives! The Governor of Virginia has a salary of $175,000, which is in the 90th percentile for Governors in the USA. That’s certainly a lot of money — almost triple the median income in Virginia. So, again, you may be thinking, why would we pay them more?

Well, consider the kinds of people that the Governor interacts with on a daily basis. Plutocrats. Governor McDonnell, on a daily basis, interacts with people who have income/wealth that far exceed the Governor’s “measly” $175,000 salary. You may be thinking, why is this a problem if the Governor got into politics for purely altruistic reasons?

Even if the Governor did do such a thing, research tells us that unethical behavior has to do with the kind of person you are and more to do with the situations you find yourself in. For instance, you may be the most ethical person in the world, but if you happen to find yourself in a bind financially and a whole host of other variables are weighing on you, there’s probably a situation that you may find yourself in where overlooking a conflict of interest may seem like an okay thing to do.

That’s the argument for increasing the salaries of politicians — to remove the incentive to be unethical. Of course, there’s still likely to be unethical behavior conducted regardless of what the salaries are raised to, but it may eliminate some of it. How much, I don’t know. What would be a fair salary?

The article in Slate discussed Sinagpore, which is known for being one of the most efficient governments in the world. He explained that in Singapore, the Prime Minister earns more than four times the salary of President Barack Obama and the President gets $400,000 a year! Government Ministers (akin to cabinet Secretaries), earn over $1 million a year. The highest paid cabinet Secretary (Secretary of the Treasury) gets approximately $190,000. So, government Ministers earn more than 5 times as much as their American counterparts.

I’m not advocating this particular raise, but I think it’s a conversation worth having.

I suppose the other option would be to remove the influential plutocrats from the equation. Although, I don’t know that with the American political system arranged in the way that it is, if that’d be constitutional. Larry Lessig, someone who’s been working tirelessly on the option of getting money out of politics was asked what a question about salaries for Congress. I’ll leave you with the question and his answer:

Question: You advocate in your book that congressmen should be paid much more than what they are right now (about $175,000/year). How much do you think they should be paid to make them lose the incentive to become a lobbyist? Does 250-300k sound better?

Lessig: Oh please don’t out me on this. Ok, but DON’T TELL ANYONE I SAID THIS: They are lawmakers. Why aren’t they paid as much as a first year partner at a DC firm? In Singapore, gov’t ministers get paid $1 million a year. Where is corruption in Singapore. NO-where.

US Congress: 48% Millionaires, US Population: 2.85% Millionaires

I recently saw an article in The Atlantic with the title: Does the Rise of the Super-Wealthy Require New Global Rules? It’s a provocative question based on a book by Chrystia FreelandPlutocrats. I highly recommend taking the time to read it! Anyway, while the article was good, there was something near the beginning that caught my eye and made me think:

When the 113th Congress opened in January, the number of millionaires in its ranks rose to 257 out of 535, or just over 48 percent.

My first thought — that’s a lot of millionaires in Congress, isn’t it? Forty-eight percent! Then I thought, that percentage probably doesn’t hold for the whole population of the US. Meaning, 48% of the United States probably isn’t made up of millionaires. In fact, it’s not. A study found that there are 9 million millionaires in the US. If we use the clock on the US Census Bureau, we can say that there are approximately 316 million people living in the US. So, if we divide 316 million by 9 million, we get a percentage of… 2.85%. Meaning, 2.85% of the US are millionaires. And yet, 48% of Congress are millionaires. Is something wrong here?

The US has a representative democracy. This means that a group of elected officials represent the people who elected them. Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t the keyword here representative? Do we really think that a Congress in which 48% of the body are millionaires can accurately represent a population in which only 2.85% are millionaires?

If you’re an American, this is certainly something worth thinking about today as you enjoy your holiday.

PS: Happy Independency Day!