Most state legislators have college degrees

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jun 13, 2011
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Most state legislators have college degrees

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Jun 13, 2011
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Steve Chiotakis: There’s new data out by the Chronicle of Higher Education on how many members of state legislatures went to college — 75 percent have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. But do those diplomas make them better lawmakers?

We sent Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer to find out.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Democrat Emily Cain has served in Maine’s legislature for seven years. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and is now working on a Ph.D. She says her higher learning helps her think critically, especially when she’s presented with research or statistics.

Emily Cain: Who collected the data? Was it an organization with an agenda?

But you don’t have to be a pointy head to be a good state legislator. Sometimes it helps not to have a degree. Scott Smallwood is managing editor of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Scott Smallwood: But there’s a strong history in America of not wanting to be governed by a sort of specialized elite.

Smallwood says only a little more than a quarter of all Americans have college degrees. Lawmakers without degrees say they understand their constituents’ problems better than Ivy Leaguers. In fact, the Chronicle found some lawmakers who touted their lack of formal education, saying they went to the “School of Life” or “gun school.”

But from where I sit, in Washington, D.C., about one of every 30 congressmen went to Yale.

I’m Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

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