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The Age of Tea Party Members in Congress

Last week, we published an article on the graying of Congress. Congress has gotten older, but the age gap between Republicans and Democrats has also increased; the average Republican is about four years younger than the average Democrat. The age gap between the parties has only widened in the past several years, and, while talking in the office, we wondered whether the influx of tea-party-aligned Republicans beginning in 2010 was pushing the average age of the GOP down.

I looked into it, and the tea party isn’t the culprit. In all three sessions of Congress since the rise of the tea party in 2010, the average Tea Party Caucus member in the House has been slightly older than the average Republican and as old or older than the average Democrat.

Average Age in the U.S. House of Representatives

mehta-datalab-teaparty-2

I combined data from Govtrack.us, The New York Times and the Sunlight Foundation to figure out the average age of Democrats and Republicans during the past three sessions of Congress. For our list of tea partyers, I used members of the Tea Party Caucus for the 112th and 113th Congresses and — because that information wasn’t available before then — I used the Times’ list of the Tea Party Caucus’s founding members for the 111th Congress (that means if someone joined the caucus halfway through the 111th Congress, he isn’t counted here). We’ve published this data on Github.

In the 2010 elections, the tea party gained several seats in the House; I initially suspected that many of these seats went to young tea party candidates. Of the 60 members of congress listed on the tea party caucus official website at any point during the 112th Congress, 17 were newly elected members. The average age of these new members was 50.6, again older than the 48.5-year-old average for a newly elected Republican.

Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics.

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