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Reexamining Theories of Congressional Retirement: Evidence from the 1980s

Steven G. Livingston and Sally Friedman
Legislative Studies Quarterly
Vol. 18, No. 2 (May, 1993), pp. 231-253
Published by: Washington University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/439992
Page Count: 23
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Reexamining Theories of Congressional Retirement: Evidence from the 1980s
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Abstract

An early scholarly consensus that congressional retirements would become increasingly rare as careerism became the norm was upset by the surge of retirements in the 1970s. This surge led a second wave of theorists to argue that retirements would increase in response to a growing disaffection with congressional service. Using House and Senate data from the 1980s, we update and critique these analyses of congressional retirements. We conclude that the 1970s were in fact an aberration. The evidence of the 1980s supports earlier explanations of retirement and scholars' more general understanding of congressional behavior: the vast majority of members seek continued reelection. Retirements are relatively rare, and, to the extent that they are systemically driven, are responses to age, institutional characteristics, and electoral difficulties. We present a model of congressional retirement that uses a discriminant analysis and incorporates these factors and their interactions.

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