Document Type


Publication Date

August 2016

Publication Title

American Sociological Association, 111th Annual Meeting


Educational Sociology | Education Policy | Sociology


In the current political climate of education financing, public institutions are often the targets of budget cuts. This erosion of the financial backing occurs alongside an expansion of higher education. This research investigates one component of this political realm. Based on research suggesting that policy-makers’ personal characteristics (e.g. gender, race, religious status) affect policy outcomes, this work investigates the extent to which legislators’ educational backgrounds matter for public higher education spending (Washington 2008). Do states with a larger percentage of legislators with a public higher education degree spend more on public higher education than do other legislatures, all other things equal? To address this gap, we use a robust time-series dataset of the educational backgrounds of state legislators. Currently, there are 7,383 state legislators. In 2005, we compiled the first wave of this database, accessing and coding the educational backgrounds of 6,517 state legislators. For the past two years, we have completed a second wave of data. The near ten-year gap in time will allow for a longitudinal analysis which will investigate more fully whether legislatures composed of a larger portion of legislators who attend state college and universities invest more generously in public higher education, all things equal, compared to legislatures with a smaller proportion of publically educated legislators. Findings from this research impact theories of representation, evaluating the extent to which legislators advocate for spending based on their own demographic profiles.


Title on the paper differs from the program title. The title on the paper is: “Returns to Education: A Longitudinal Analysis of the Link between Legislators' Public School Degrees and Spending on Public Higher Education.”