Which state has the most PhDs in the legislature?

By Razib Khan | June 13, 2011 4:08 am

Josh Rosenau points me to a new infographic from The Chronicle of Higher Education. A lot of the stuff isn’t too interesting or surprising. Are you surprised that 25% of the state legislators in Arkansas don’t have a college degree, the highest in the nation? The lack of public investment in education Arkansas has deep historical and cultural roots, back to its founding in the 19th century. On the other hand there are a few surprising nuggets. You are surely aware of the preponderance of Esquires in the profession of lawmakers in these United States. But can you guess which state has the highest proportion of lawyers in their legislature?

Don’t mess with Texas! They’ll sue you!

How about doctorates? This one might surprise you too:


I suspect the dominance of Nebraska here is because of the prominence of agriculture in the state economy. “Cow colleges” are often factories for the production of local leaders who become the captains of agriculture with education and scientific knowledge in hand. They have interests to be defended! Farm subsidies to maintain! So of course they’ll get involved in politics. In New Jersey PhDs leave it to the large staff of lawyers who work for the pharmaceutical company where they’re employed to do the lobbying and politicking.

One of the more peculiar aspects of the United States is the dominance of graduates of public institutions in those regions ostensibly most hostile to generous disbursement from the public fisc. In contrast, very Lefty states are often much more weighted toward graduates of elite private universities. Here’s the breakdown:

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Data Analysis, Education
MORE ABOUT: Education
  • http://lablemming.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    Don’t forget that Nebraska is unicameral, and only has 49 total members in the single house, so “10.2%” equals 5 people.
    Bill Avery’s PhD is in Political science
    Tom Carlson’s PhD is in Education
    Dunno who the other three are.

    Which states have full time vs part time legislatures?

  • Chris S.

    “I suspect the dominance of Nebraska here is because of the prominence of agriculture in the state economy. ‘Cow colleges’ are often factories for the production of local leaders who become the captains of agriculture with education and scientific knowledge in hand. They have interests to be defended! Farm subsidies to maintain! So of course they’ll get involved in politics.”

    That is an unbelievably reckless and ill-founded accusation. Many great colleges and universities started out as agricultural or land-grant schools and grow into institutions with broader scope.

    The University of Nebraska, the college the vast majority of Nebraska’s college-educated legislators attended, is a respected institution throughout the country.

    Do you have specific evidence that Nebraska schools are providing their students — Ph.D. candidates, no less — with special-interest indoctrination? This is a very serious charge, and means the college has utterly failed in its academic duty.

    There aren’t a lot of institutions in Nebraska that offer Ph.D.s, and as the previous commentator pointed out, only five individuals in the Nebraskan hold one.

    Are you prepared to challenge the legitimacy of their degrees and the academic credibility of their universities with specific, credible, and verifiable evidence that they are failing institutions?

    Or are you just making assumptions about education outside the coasts?

  • Liesel

    One of the more peculiar aspects of the United States is the dominance of graduates of public institutions in those regions ostensibly most hostile to generous disbursement from the public fisc. In contrast, very Lefty states are often much more weighted toward graduates of elite private universities.

    You probably know that a similar pattern exists for federal services. States with a net gain on money from the federal governement are more likely to be red states.

    Perhaps people with more first hand experience with government programs, are less likely to feel those programs are worth the money? Or perhaps the people who do vote in those states tend to be the ones not receiving federal aid/public education and dislike their neighbors use of such services at their expense?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    hey #2 asshole, i wasn’t insulting cow colleges. my understanding is that people from land grant institutions oriented toward practical degrees are PROUD to be called “cow colleges.” and who the fuck said farm subsidies were about indoctrination? it’s just plain self-interest. jesus. if u knew anything about my revealed preferences you’d know that i obviously hold cow colleges in very high esteem. but since you don’t know anything about me that’s fine, BUT DON’T EVER MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT MY INTENT AGAIN OR I’LL BAN YOU.

  • Chris S.

    Wow. Is this acceptable behavior from a host at Discover Blogs?

    As a magazine committed to education, I would expect it to be a ground for civil discourse, and not a place where contributors to cuss at their readers.

    Your hostile demeanor and repeated accusation do nothing to assuage my concerns about the initial post.

  • Mike

    Whoaaaaaaa, little hostile there, eh, Razib?

    Nice to know that you’re grammar and punctuation go right out the window when you get a little riled up.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    it would be weird if “chris_” is christopher shea who linked to this post from the WSJ

    http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/06/13/which-state-legislatures-are-ph-d-friendly/?mod=WSJBlog&mod=WSJ_LifeStyle_Ideas_Market

    but i doubt it. the IP doesn’t make sense.

    #6, what’s your issue? i don’t politely take stupid hectoring comments from people. if you don’t know that, you don’t know jack.

  • levicticus

    I would only ask how many of those legislators in states like VA or TX are local born or, if local born, the product of local families with roots in the area more than 2 or 3 generations. I suspect a state like KY or Arkansas would be less influenced by the effects of the Sunbelt migration and post WW2 Defense buildup in states like TX. Any statement about the Southeast or Southern continuities are always complicated by the ongoing effects of the Sunbelt migration. Political stats and a shallow understanding of politicians’ bios don’t necessarily help, either, as the children and grandchildren of North-eastern and Midwestern Democrat voting Catholics, Old School GOP Republicans and a small minority of Jewish politicians that have become Sunbelt Republicans and use “Southern” sounding talking points, while still the products of non-Southern cultures that placed an emphasis on education as a means of social advancement. Many people may not realize that Ron Paul or Newt Gingrich, for example, are both transplants.

  • levicticus

    Sorry about above run ons, thought I had edited my comment. Also, I wasn’t talking about Razib or other commentators when I said “shallow understanding.”

    I just get vaguely annoyed when I read commentary (not here, just in general) about “Southern” politicians when five minutes research would reveal they were born outside of the region and came there as adults.

  • Clark

    Wyoming was kind of surprising as well. It’s a pretty different state from Nebraska. Undermining your thesis a bit is that while Wyoming and Nebraska are strong their neighboring states seem pretty low. Is this just a statistical anomaly or is there something different about those two states verses similar states. (i.e. Colorado in the east is similar to Nebraska but has the Denver area that changes the demographics)

    BTW could you clarify that last graph? I wasn’t exactly sure what it was measuring. i.e. what are the “elite institutions”?

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp Razib Khan

    #10, y, the last is confusing. it’s the % who are public university graduates. national av. is 80%.

  • ackbark

    Maps don’t show what the PhD’s are in actually, which I think could be more informative.

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This blog is about evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices. Please beware that comments are aggressively moderated. Uncivil or churlish comments will likely get you banned immediately, so make any contribution count!

About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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