Does paying politicians more promote economic diversity in legislatures?


Journal Article

© American Political Science Association 2016. If politicians in the United States were paid better, would more middle- and working-class people become politicians? Reformers often argue that the low salaries paid in state and local governments make holding office economically infeasible for lower-income citizens and contribute to the enduring numerical under-representation of the working class in our political institutions. Of course, raising politicians' salaries could also make political office more attractive to affluent professionals, increasing competition for office and ultimately discouraging lower-income citizens from running and winning. In this article, we test these hypotheses using data on the salaries and economic backgrounds of state legislators. Contrary to the notion that paying politicians more promotes economic diversity, we find that the descriptive representation of the working class is the same or worse in states that pay legislators higher salaries. These findings have important implications for research on descriptive representation, political compensation, and political inequality.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Carnes, N; Hansen, ER

Published Date

  • November 1, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 110 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 699 - 716

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5943

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-0554

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/S000305541600054X

Citation Source

  • Scopus