71 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2007 Last revised: 11 May 2022
Date Written: May 2007
We study political dynasties in the United States Congress since its inception in 1789. We document historic and geographic patterns in the evolution and profile of political dynasties, study the extent of dynastic bias in legislative politics versus other occupations, and analyze the connection between political dynasties and political competition. We also study the self-perpetuation of political elites. We find that legislators who enjoy longer tenures are significantly more likely to have relatives entering Congress later. Using instrumental variables methods, we establish that this relationship is causal: a longer period in power increases the chance that a person may start (or continue) a political dynasty. Therefore, dynastic political power is self-perpetuating in that a positive exogenous shock to a person's political power has persistent effects through posterior dynastic attainment. In politics, power begets power.
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