The Lure of the Private Sector: Career Prospects Affect Selection Out of Congress

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Does the potential for a successful private sector career induce legislators to leave office? How does this affect the representation voters receive? I show that when former US senators—who now work as lobbyists—become more successful, currently serving senators with similar characteristics are more likely to take private sector employment. I replicate all results on data from the House. A number of tests suggest that senators react to the opportunity costs of holding office. Investigating selection effects, I find that legislative specialists are attracted the most in the Senate. Preliminary evidence suggests that the least wealthy respond most strongly in the House. This suggests that the revolving door shapes the skill set of legislators and the representation voters receive.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Science Research and Methods
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)722-738
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

Published online: 08 April 2021.


  • (Adverse) political selection
  • Revolving door politcs
  • The Post-elective labor market for politicians
  • US Congress

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