Are Workers Effective Lawmakers?

Lollis, Jacob, Government - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Kirkland, Justin, AS-Dept of Politics, University of Virginia
Volden, Craig, BA-Frank Batten School, University of Virginia

Are working-class legislators effective lawmakers? Intuitively, one may expect that lawmakers from manual labor, clerical, and service-based jobs (the working-class) are less effective than legislators who have previously worked in business, politics, or law (white-collar) occupations. The legislative effectiveness of the working-class, however, has not yet been empirically evaluated. This article addresses two primary questions. First, is there a class-based effectiveness gap between working-class and white-collar legislators? Second, do various institutional and contextual arrangements moderate the effectiveness of working-class legislators? I motivate
my analysis by developing theoretical arguments for why workers may be more or less effective than white-collar legislators. Next, I extend this theoretical argument to consider whether institutions within and across state legislatures moderate the legislative effectiveness of the working class. I find no evidence of a class-based effectiveness gap—working-class and white-collar legislators are equally effective throughout the lawmaking process. Additionally, although workers serving as party leaders are more effective than white-collar legislators serving as party leaders, I find little evidence that institutions collectively moderate workers’ effectiveness.
I conclude that workers and white-collar legislators are equally effective throughout
the lawmaking process despite institutional variation.

MA (Master of Arts)
Legislative institutions, Social class, State politics, Legislative effectiveness
Issued Date: