Panel Paper: How Experienced Legislative Staff Contribute to Effective Lawmaking

Saturday, November 10, 2018
Madison A - Mezz Level (Marriott Wardman Park)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Craig Volden1, Alan E. Wiseman2, Geoffrey M. Lorenz1 and Jesse M. Crosson3, (1)University of Virginia, (2)Vanderbilt University, (3)University of Michigan

Members of Congress seek to allocate their scarce staff resources carefully, given their multiple, sometimes competing, objectives. Using data on House members’ staff allocations from 1994 to 2008, we demonstrate that legislators advance more (and more significant) legislation when they retain a more experienced legislative staff. This benefit, however, accrues mostly to committee chairs, whose institutional privileges allow them to leverage experienced staff, and to freshmen, whose inexperience can be best supplemented by experienced aides. Finally, we show that the positive marginal return on legislative staff experience occurs mainly among already-experienced staff. In contrast, the legislative staff for about three-fourths of House members are insufficiently experienced for these lawmakers to benefit from marginal increases in their staff’s experience.