Young People Mistrust Government So Much They Aren’t Running for Office

The advancing age of Congress isn’t just due to reelection rates

congressman with money

Once again the millennial generation is exhibiting a trend that has older people confused and a bit worried. It appears that young people aren’t running for political office or getting involved in government. Shauna Shames, an assistant professor of political science at Rutgers University, argues that millennials are so "repelled by what they see of politics" that they don’t want to run for office. 

She writes for the Monkey Cage at Washington Post:

Between 2011 and 2014, I surveyed over 750 young people well-positioned to run for office – those studying law and public policy at the graduate level in the Boston area. The views of one such person, whom I’ll call Charlotte, are illustrative. She said, “I’d hate [running].”  She elaborated: “I just feel I can effect a lot more change and do good work from the outside and find it much more satisfying.”

It may seem early to judge the political ambitions of this generation: Even those born in 1982, a common starting point for the generation’s birth range, are just turning 33 this year. But the number of people under 30 working in federal government dropped to 7 percent in 2014, "the lowest figure in nearly a decade," reports Lisa Rein for the Post. (Threats of federal shutdown, furloughs and pay freezes and the slow, somewhat mysterious hiring process might be to blame, she writes.) And the average age for members of Congress has been gradually increasing in recent decades. In the 114th Congress, the Senate’s average ages is 61; the House has managed to stay a youthful 57.

This latter trend may just be particular instance of a much broader one—the nation as a whole is getting older. But Jonathan Bernstein at Salon points out that the aging Congress is not just made up off reelected officials holding onto their seats into their senescence. Even new incoming members are older. 

You’d expect more eager young political aspirants. (And there are a few.) Of course, the financial strain many millennials face might factor into this equation, too. Or perhaps this generation is just biding its time until takeover.

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