The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Nearly everyone in Congress has a college degree. Most Americans don’t.

Pew Research compiled five interesting bits of data about the new Congress in an article published Thursday. Congress has more women and more people of color than in the past (though it’s still heavily composed of white men). There are fewer veterans than in Congresses past as well.

It was the numbers on education that I found the most striking, though. Nearly every member of Congress has a college degree, with only 5 percent of the House lacking such credentials. Every member of the Senate has a four-year diploma.

What’s remarkable about that is that it’s a much higher rate of educational attainment than is exhibited by the United States on the whole. Census Bureau data shows that most Americans over the age of 25 don’t have a four-year degree — and, in fact, only about one-third did in 2014.

Fewer Americans go to college than many people may realize. That figure is increasing over time, according to the Census Bureau, but it’s still less than two-thirds of the country. (The first year that half of those 25 and over had attended at least some college was 1999.)

Because people are going to college more now than in the past and because it’s mostly younger people who start going to college, there’s a wide split by age in terms of the number of people who have four-year degrees.

Put simply, that chart indicates that in 2015 (the most recent year available), 64 percent of those aged 25 to 34 had no college degree, and 65 percent of those 35 to 54 were in the same position. For those 55 and older, the figure was 71 percent.

The members of Congress who don’t have degrees don’t follow any particular pattern. On average, members of the House are 57.7 years old. The 21 members of the chamber without four-year degrees are, on average, 59.3 years old.

We’ve noted before that Congress doesn’t particularly look much like the rest of the country. When it comes to education, that’s also the case — though we suspect that, on this demographic at least, voters will let it slide.