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Toward Understanding 19th Century Congressional Careers: Ambition, Competition, and Rotation

Samuel Kernell
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 21, No. 4 (Nov., 1977), pp. 669-693
DOI: 10.2307/2110731
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110731
Page Count: 25
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
Toward Understanding 19th Century Congressional Careers: Ambition, Competition, and Rotation
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Abstract

The growing careerism of congressmen at the turn of the century has been widely viewed as a chief cause for the modernization of the House of Representatives. Thus, a prominent concern of recent research in congressional development has been the reasons for career development at that time. In this paper I attempt to distinguish the effects of three contributors to the nineteenth century turnover: competition, rotation, and ambition. After analyzing six decades of nineteenth-century congressional elections, I found that all three variables served to reduce turnover toward the end of the century, but that the decline in voluntary retirement, reflecting political ambition, was the primary contributor to increased membership stability.

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