Questions about the characteristics of Members of Congress, including their age, education, previous occupations, and other descriptors, are of ongoing interest to Members, congressional staff, and constituents. Some of these questions may be asked in the context of representation, in efforts to evaluate the extent to which Members of Congress reflect their constituencies and the nation at large. In other instances, questions arise about how the characteristics of Members have changed over time, which may speak in part to the history of Congress.
Members in 2011 are older, more likely to identify a religious affiliation, and include more women and members of racial and ethnic groups than Members in 1945. The data presented in this report suggest that since the 79th Congress, Members have had high levels of education, and worked in professional positions prior to coming to Congress. The number of Members who previously served in the military has risen and fallen, largely in tandem with the levels of service in the broader population.
Representatives and Senators: Trends in Member Characteristics Since 1945