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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Professional Diversity and Politics

At The Baltimore Sun, my coauthor John-Clark Levin writes about Congress and professional diversity:
While there are 60 percent more men in Congress than in the general population — to the outrage of many — trained lawyers are overrepresented by about 6,021 percent: 213 members hold law degrees. About another 130 spent most of their careers in business or finance. By contrast, there are just eight engineers, two scientists, one economist and less than a dozen career military officers. The result is a massive skew toward the ways of thinking and problem solving taught in law and business schools.
Whether in legislatures or executive government, the core of policymaking is setting agendas and collaboratively making informed decisions. The legal profession instills reliance on adversarial process — wherein two sides present arguments to an impartial arbiter. On the other hand, scientists are taught to prioritize quantitative evidence, economists to study incentives and journalists to suppress personal bias. In government, these approaches can shape how politicians gather information, which experts they trust, and what solutions they favor. Diversity helps ensure that policies are based on the strongest evidence possible.