The wealth of politicians

Open Secrets has data on members of the House and Senate in relation to their net worth. Here are some descriptive statistics:

Democrats & Republicans:
25th percentile = $228,006
Median = $791,004
75thth percentile = $2,962,519
Mean = $6,438,210

25th percentile = $269,007
Median = $999,381
75thth percentile = $3,421,512
Mean = $6,010,456

25th percentile = $217,001
Median = $718,756
75thth percentile = $2,516,033
Mean = $6,731952

Let's limit to those who have positive net worth (greater than zero) and less than $50,000,000. This is about two standard deviations above the median, so it removes the top ~2% who tend to skew the results.

Democrats & Republicans:
25th percentile = $299,756
Median = $803,507
75thth percentile = $2,829,274
Mean = $3,134,246

25th percentile = $301,129
Median = $984,694
75thth percentile = $3,284,281
Mean = $3,540,125

25th percentile = $299,756
Median = $777,009
75thth percentile = $2,496,290
Mean = $2,835,933

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Some people already have money when they go into politics, and some people get money by going into politics. the latter group is more dependent on donors and is more corrupt (in terms of bundles of $20 bills), regardless of party. On the other hand, the former group can be corrupt by favoring their own business, a family business, or a past and future employer.

I'm reading about the prairie progressives up to 1930 ("Sons of a Wild Jackass") and many of them really did live very frugally on a middle middle class income. Those days are gone.

"Mr Smith goes to Washington" is a romanticized picture of that type of politician, but I suspect that it's extremely misleading. The Progressives were mostly from very ordinary backgrounds, but they were all very strong-willed, well-informed, and ideological -- not ordinary citizens relying on common sense and simple decency.

By John Emerson (not verified) on 26 Nov 2009 #permalink

In the second group of numbers - all the ones with the top 2% shaved off - The Democrat-and-Republican 25th percentile is exactly equal to the Democrat-only 25th percentile. ($299,756 for both.)

Looks like a little transcription error between your notes and your blog entry. But then it occurred to me that, given the subjects you're reporting on, some sort vast financial conspiracy is equally plausible :)

I wonder what the average age is. It seems that the group with the higher average age might have an advantage.


I think that the numbers skew low due to deliberate underreporting.

We know about the real estate holdings and bank accounts that Charlie Rangel innocently forgot to report. We know about the stacks of cash in William Jefferson freezer. There's a lot that we don't know about, and won't know about until they get caught.

We may sometimes use other businesses to perform certain services for us, such as maintaining the Site and our mailing lists, processing orders and delivering.

I may be wrong here, but isn't there a miscalculation in the unadjusted Democrat data? How can the 25th, 75th and median values all be lower than their Republican counterparts, but then have a higher mean ($6,731,952 vs. $6,438,210)?

means are more skewed by outliers. a few superrich dems skew the mean up, but have less effect on the median.