Congress, Like the US, Is Older

Median age in Senate hits 65, a new high
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 3, 2023 4:18 PM CDT
Congress, Like the US, Is Older
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, left, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell arrive for President Biden's State of the Union address in February at the Capitol.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Here's one way Congress reflects the nation it serves: It's getting older. The median age for senators this Congress is a record high, 65, while House members are holding at 58. And the pace is quickening, FiveThirtyEight reports. For the last 80 years of the 20th century, the median age stayed below 60 for senators and below 55 for representatives. The biggest reason for the rise is the same as it is for the general population: Existing members are aging in place. In its analysis in January, Pew Research reported similar findings in the Senate, despite the fact that most new members are well below the median age. There just aren't enough of them to pull the median down.

Some of it is baked in: Senators must be at least 30 and House members 25, so no seriously young people can be added to the math. Members have always been older than the overall population, which also isn't getting any younger. Roughly 42% of the US population was 45 or older as of the 2020 census, twice the percentage of a century ago. Factors including the advantage of incumbency also contribute. The trends can be measured by generation.

Baby boomers hold the biggest share of seats, at 48%, a share that's falling. When they first held the largest slice, in 2001, their median age wasn't yet 50, per FiveThirtyEight. But that generation hasn't left, and the boomers' median age is now 66. Other effects of the generational aging include having fewer military veterans in office, while the composition of Congress has become more diverse racially and ethnically, per Pew. (More Congress stories.)

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