In July 2011, the debate over the country’s then-$14 trillion national debt reached a fever pitch amid competing claims about the economic wisdom of cutting government spending and raising taxes. Congress will return to the merits of a deficit reduction plan later this fall, but will first consider a variety of proposals aimed a spurring job creation and revitalizing the country’s stagnant labor market.
In both the jobs and debt debates, there have been no shortages of competing claims about how a particular piece of legislation will impact the economy. These appeals to economic expertise beg the question: How many member of Congress have an academic background that provided them with a basic understanding of how the economy works?
The answer, it turns out, is not many. Publicly available data show that over three-quarters of members of Congress—nearly 8 out of 10—lack an academic background in business or economics. That includes 8.4 percent who majored in an economics-related field, and 13.7 percent who majored in a business or accounting-related field. Over half majored in either government-related fields or the humanities.