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The U.S. House of Representatives has one of the oldest pools of politicians in the world today: the average member of the House is 58 years at the time of their election, which is about 20 years older than the average American. But why are younger adults scarce among these representatives? Here we trace the relative absence of youth in both the primary and general elections of 2020 using a supply and demand framework. Our study finds that (1) the average candidate is much older than the average citizen and (2) young candidates perform less well than older candidates in both primaries and general elections. These results suggest that youth are disadvantaged because the two main parties do not nominate enough younger adults as candidates for winnable and safe seats. Young adults also seem to be disadvantaged indirectly at the electoral stage because they lack electoral capital (experience in running for and holding office) and tend to suffer strongly from the incumbency advantage of their opponents. We infer from these findings that barring reforms to rules governing minimum candidate ages and term limits, the under-representation of youth in U.S. national-level politics will continue for the foreseeable future.
Stockemer, D., Thompson, H., & Sundström, A. (2023). Young adults’ under-representation in elections to the U.S. House of Representatives. Electoral Studies, 81. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.electstud.2022.102554