Retirements, retentions, and the balance of partisan power in contemporary congressional politics

Adrian U.Jin Ang, L. Marvin Overby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


In this paper we extend earlier work on the effects of disparate retirement rates on the partisan composition of the contemporary House of Representatives (1954–2006). Gilmour and Rothstein had posited that the Grand Old Party's (GOP) ‘permanent minority’ status in the House between 1954 and 1994 was the principal cause of this differential. Contrary to expectations, we find that even after their takeover of the House in 1995, Republican Members of Congress (MCs) continued to leave the chamber voluntarily at higher rates than their Democratic colleagues, both to retire completely from public life and to seek higher office. Ceteris paribus, even as the GOP made considerable offsetting gains in its ability to re-elect incumbents and to retain open seats, this continued disparity significantly attenuated the size of their legislative majority and contributed to their ousting as the majority party in the elections of 2006. We conclude the paper with some speculations regarding the reasons for the persistence of relatively high rates of Republican retirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-352
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Legislative Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Law


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