Now retired, Glenn R. Parker was Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Purdue University and is the author of many books, including Capitol Investment$: The Marketability of Political Skills. Suzanne L. Parker, also now retired, was Associate Professor of Political Science at Purdue University. Together they have coauthored Factions in House Committees.
“A unique and interesting approach to the study of legislators and legislative institutions.”
—David Brady, Stanford University
What would you do if, the very day you were hired, you knew you could be unemployed in as little as two years? You’d seek opportunities in your current job to develop a portfolio of skills and contacts in order to make yourself more attractive to future employers. Representatives and senators think about their jobs in Congress in precisely this way, according to Glenn R. Parker.
While in office, members of Congress plan not merely for the next election but for the next stage of their careers. By networking, serving on committees, and championing particular legislation, they deliberately accumulate human capital—expertise, networks, and reputation—which later gives them advantages on the job market. Parker’s study of the postelective careers of more than 200 former members of Congress who left office during the last half century shows that, in most cases, the human capital these politicians amassed while in office increased their occupational mobility and earning power.
Using data drawn from the travel vouchers filed by incumbent senators and congressmen between 1959 and 1980, Parker shows that since the mid-1960s incumbents have been placing greater emphasis on service to their state or district. Congress has facilitated this change in various ways, such as by increasing travel allowances and by scheduling that minimizes the conflict between legislative business in Washington and time spent with constituents.
Parker's study includes both the Senate and House, and he draws distinctions between the home-style behaviors of senators and representatives. He also provides a historical context for understanding the dynamics of changes in home style. The time-series data generate explanations that specify relationships among historical conditions, individual behavior, and institutional structures.