Why So Many Lawyers? Occupational Backgrounds in Congress (Infographic)

By Gidon Belmaker, Epoch Times
May 22, 2014 Updated: May 22, 2014

Elected officials are our representatives. At least, that’s what the textbooks says. A quick look at the occupational backgrounds in the House of Representatives and the Senate shows they come from very narrow fields, ones very different than the general population.

The over-representation of lawyers in government is a well known fact, but a main trend, seen clearly in the  two animated graphs below, shows the rise of the career politician.



These charts, created by Tumbler blog The Mendoza Line and based on data complied by the Brookings Institution, were posted to reddit and garnered a lot of discussion from the community.

“Everytime there is a post about net neutrality or piracy laws or freedom of information issues or anything like that we complain about how politicians don’t know *** about technology – because they don’t. And Engineers can’t be bothered to become politicians because…well who would want to give up tinkering to instead go politicking.” comment reddit user pohatu. “We have a society where we are increasingly technological and scientific and we have no one from the scientific and engineering community as political leaders.”

“‘Career politician’ has negative connotations, but given the reality we live in, the alternative is worse.” Noted another user, ocdscale. “If you get rid of career politicians and fill Washington with professionals from various fields who have come to serve the public for (let’s say) 5 years before returning home, what happens?  You get a bunch of well intentioned people who have no idea how things work. The most experienced people in Washington end up being the people who aren’t elected to office, the lobbyists.”

This is the same data as an area map, designed by a different user.

Law has been a dominant profession in politics since the establishment of the United States.  The first U.S. Congress had 34 lawyers out of 91 total members (37.3 percent); the 112th Congress had 200 lawyers of a total of 539 members (37.1 percent).