Fun with Congressional Data: What did Congress do before they got their jobs

If you started reading my “Fun with Congressional Data” posts you saw my assessment of voting changes in congress and GDP swings. Today I’m going to look at the occupations of congress overall and overtime. Before getting into the data, I have to let you know that it comes from the Brooking’s Institute. This dataset consists of the occupations of congress since 1953. I should note that people can say they were two (or more) different professions so the row sums don’t add up to the total number of congressmen. I’ll also note that some jobs (like public servant) didn’t show up as occupations until at least 1980. Still, this can give us insight into the occupational makeup of our congress over time. Let’s take a look at the overall breakdown by job title since 1953.


As you can see, the biggest three categories, respectively, are Veterans, Lawyers and Businessmen. Next on the list is public servants (which is shocking since this wasn’t considered a Job until 1987) followed by education. How did these common jobs change over time? Let’s take a look!


While Public Service wasn’t a job title until 1987, you can see that this is how most congressmen are now describing themselves. Public Service and Business people make up the highest totals in congress over the past 5 congresses (back until 2002). We can also see the number of veterans decreasing drastically while the number of congressmen who identify as educational experts is mostly constant.

So three things are happening here:

  1. Veteran members of congress have decreased drastically, which may be why we are more inclined to intervene in foreign affairs.
  2. Lawyers (who could be calling themselves “public servants”) and Veterans are being replaced by Public Servants.
  3. There are just as many Professional Athletes (5) in this Congress as Scientists (5)

Stay tuned for next weeks post, a breakdown of the two congressional parties in each of the house and senate over time. How has the makeup changed? How might it change in 2016?

If you enjoyed this post, check out my other “Fun with Congressional Data” posts below:

  1. Party Majority after election in the House/Senate since 1931 and a congressional majority’s connection to changes in Real/Nominal GDP.
  2. This Post: Occupation status of congress since 1953.
  3.  Percentages of Congress and House/Senate of Democrats and Republicans since 1857.
  4.  The myth of independent representation and choices in 2016.
  5. Amount of $$ spent on elections by Incumbents vs. Challengers and it’s effect on re-election since 1974.

If you enjoyed this post, take a look at some of my other Adventures in Statistics.

-Andrew G. Chapple





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