Journal of Undergraduate Research


occupational background, legislative effectiveness, campaign season, congressional condidates


Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Political Science


Every two years, voters across the country send dozens of newly elected U.S. representatives to Congress, and these freshmen come from all educational backgrounds and professions. There are MBAs, JDs, and PhDs, as well as former doctors, entrepreneurs, professors, attorneys, military leaders, state legislators and corporate executives. And during campaign season, it is common for congressional candidates to tout their pre-political backgrounds as evidence that they will be successful in Congress (see Figure 1). Candidate Stephen Tryon, for example, ran against incumbent Jason Chaffetz in Utah’s third congressional district in 2014 and advertised that he was a “proven soldier and leader, successful business executive, and noted author” (Burr and Jesperson 2014). Are educational and professional backgrounds good predictors of legislative effectiveness in the U.S. House, or are they largely irrelevant?