How educated are Utah’s legislators?

How do Utah’s two chambers rank in terms of legislators’ education? The Utah Senate is above average. The Utah House is well below average.

There are 99 state legislative bodies in the United States. That is, there are 49 states with a bicameral (two-chamber) legislature, like Utah, and one state (Nebraska) with a unicameral legislature. That adds up to 99 legislative chambers.

Of those 99 chambers, how do Utah’s two chambers rank in terms of legislators’ education? The Utah Senate is above average. The Utah House is well below average.

If we rank the 99 chambers by the percentage of legislators that earned some degree after high school–whether a law degree or a technical certificate–then Utah’s House ranks #90 out of 99. That’s because 23% of Utah’s Representatives did not earn anything after high school. Another 1% have an AA or certificate, 31% have a BA, 32% have an MA, 4% have a JD, and 7% have a doctoral degree of some sort.

Meanwhile, the Utah Senate ranks #17 out of 99. Only 7% of Utah’s Senators (that’s 2 Senators) stopped at high school. Another 7% have an AA or certificate, 24% have a BA, 28% have an MA, 28% have a JD, and 7% have a doctoral degree of some sort.

I collected these data in September 2009. There’s been some turnover in both chambers since then, so the precise numbers may have changed a bit. If I have time later (alas), I’d be curious to see whether each legislator’s educational level correlates with his or her votes on funding for higher education. I’m not sure up front that it will. Some of the legislature’s more outspoken critics of our public/higher education do have respectable degrees, after all.

I’m certainly no educational elitist. I don’t think that every legislator needs a graduate degree to legislative effectively. In fact, it’s probably good for Utah that the two chambers differ so much in terms of educational attainment. That difference broadens the legislature’s perspective.

If you want to see the raw data that this post is based on, click here. You’ll want to click “H.S.” at the top of the table to sort the chambers by the percent of legislators that stopped at high school.

Possibly related posts:

About Adam Brown

Adam Brown is an assistant professor of political science at Brigham Young University and a research fellow with the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy. You can learn more about him at his website.
This entry was posted in Everything and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.