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How many members of Congress have gone to college? And what did they study?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) on Capitol Hill in July.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) on Capitol Hill in July. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)


Since launching this column in June, we’ve somehow attracted what have to be the smartest and most hilarious readers on the planet. You’ve sent in hundreds of questions, and almost every one of them provokes thought, a chuckle, or… further exploration in the latest Data Dive!

How many members of the US Congress have taken a college-level economics course?

Dick Dahn, Wilmington, Del.

We won’t jump to conclusions, but it seems possible that our friend Dick is trying to disparage the economic expertise of our honorable representatives in Washington.

Alas, we can’t be sure how many people serving under the Capitol dome (where there are typically 535 legislators and six nonvoting members) have ever taken a college course in economics. However, we can tell you that 38 senators and House members say they studied some form of economics, usually as an undergraduate major, according to fact sheets collected by CQ. That makes economics the third most popular field of study reported by members of Congress, behind political science (135) and history (58).

Our figures count two or three times some politicians who declare several diplomas. But they are still likely underestimated overall, since not all legislators listed a field of study in the CQ questionnaire. Meanwhile, evaluating the data required a few judgment calls. For example, in our assessment of econ majors, we did not count eight members (all male, all Republican) who studied agricultural economics. We also left out Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who studied home economics.

With prominent graduates including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (DN.Y.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), economics stands out as one of the most bipartisan fields of study, along with journalism and education. Business and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) tend to be more popular among Republicans, while humanities and politics-related majors tend to be more common among Democrats. Of 10 lawmakers who studied accounting, for example, nine were Republicans. Of the 10 who studied English, eight were Democrats.

Not all legislators have gone to college. Twenty-two members of the House (and no senators) have only a high school diploma, according to the Government Accountability Office. That’s 6% of lawmakers — a significant reduction from the 1961-62 legislative session, when nearly a quarter of lawmakers had only high school diplomas.

At the other end of the educational spectrum, about a third of House members and half of senators hold a law degree, the GAO found. Our analysis shows that more than 60% of LL.D.s are Democrats, while those with MBAs are more likely to be Republicans. Similarly, more than two-thirds of lawmakers with doctorates are Democrats, but an even larger majority of those in Congress with medical degrees are Republicans.

I read that 1 in 6 zoomers quit both work and college. Is it true?

— Lori Montgomery, Managing Editor, Washington, DC

Technically, yes. But this statistic is not as remarkable as it seems.

The number comes from data collected in March 2021, and it counts Zoomers who are unemployed – a technical classification that means they are actively looking for work. It seems a bit unfair to us to say that someone does nothing if they send out resumes and – perhaps through no fault of their own – back out.

We would put the real number not at 1 in 6, or 16.7%, but at 11.9%. This is based on more recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data that goes through August of this year and does not include unemployed zoomers.

Allow us to note a few additional caveats.

First of all, this phenomenon of lounging around without working or studying isn’t specific to Gen Z. We have data going back to 1984, when the youngest baby boomers were around 20 years old. At the time, an average of 12.5% ​​of young people were doing nothing. And the number has remained relatively stable for Gen X, Millennials and Zoomers.

Second, young people aren’t exactly the laziest cohort. Indeed, people aged 18 to 24 are among the least likely to be unemployed: the proportion of people who are not studying or working increases steadily with age and rises positively when people reach late fifties.

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons why adults might not work. In addition to retirement, the inactive include people with disabilities and parents who choose to stay home with their children.

The countries that impose the most sanctions

After President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, Russia quickly became the most sanctioned country on Earth, surpassing Iran, Syria and North Korea, according to sanctions data monks by

But did you know that Russia is also the most sanctioning country on Earth? The rogue Eurasian empire sanctions 13,444 individuals, organizations and businesses, even exceeding the 11,652 restrictions imposed by the sprawling US sanctions machine.

But that doesn’t mean Russian sanctions are digging a hole in world trade. As CEO and co-founder Peter Piatetsky explains, the penalties are bizarre. The mere fact of announcing one has no weight. It must be applied.

“You can’t just impose sanctions. You need to have an infrastructure in place” made up of “analysts who understand finance, lawyers, researchers who can speak multiple languages,” said Piatetsky, who previously worked in the US Treasury Department’s sanctions department.

Effective sanctions regimes also make it easier for companies to get involved. Business owners need access to lists of sanctioned entities, and they need clear guidance to distinguish the sanctioned “Green Shipping Ltd”. and “Zhao Wei” of all other Green Shipping Ltds. and Zhao Weis in this world. Russia has a hard time with that.

“They have kind of this bureaucratic history of putting people on lists,” Piatetsky said. “But what they don’t have is a corresponding history of an open and transparent rule of law where listing people comes with due process. And so the result is that Russia is basically like, ‘Are you a member of the opposition? You are on the list. Are you a journalist? You are on the list. ”

When Piatetsky and the Castellum team ranked each nation’s sanctions regime, Russia received a failing grade, ranking even below post-Soviet peers such as Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Kyrgyzstan.

The United States, on the other hand, has the best sanctions program in the world, according to Castellum’s analysis of 20 facets of data quality and availability. The US bureaucracy sanctions 5,769 individuals, 4,757 entities (usually corporations or organizations), 515 ships, and 286 aircraft. And those are just the sanctions from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Other agencies, such as the Department of State, may also restrict business with certain people and groups.

China has the worst program of any they assessed: the Chinese government publishes no lists, Piatetsky said, and sanctions are announced only in brief press releases that are then routinely deleted from the Internet. But there may be reasons for this.

“China purposely creates a vague sanctions environment because it gives them all the power,” Piatetsky said. When the rules are vague, a country can choose who to punish, as many companies could theoretically break them.

Only 43 countries are even imposing sanctions on their own, according to, although others are on sanctions lists maintained by the United Nations, the European Union or powerful political entities such as the United States.

The best question data cannot answer

What percentage of Americans have never seen a live cow? This question has been causing arguments among my group of friends for years.

— Daniel Pereira, Alexandria, Virginia.

How can we answer that?! Our friends at the National Agricultural Statistics Service say they don’t track cow sightings for life. However, there is a rich tradition of mapping regions of America that have more cattle than people. (We switch from “cow” to “cattle” because we’re not sure most Americans can tell a cow from a heifer, steer, or bull.)

By our calculations, about 94% of Americans live in places where humans outnumber cattle. And as many as 70% live in areas where people outnumber cattle by at least 10 to 1.

So it seems likely that at least a few of these people have gone their whole lives without seeing cattle, right? Especially if they are part of the 3% of Americans aged 2 or younger.

Hi! The data department has an endless appetite for fun facts! What ratios do you think would produce the best maps of “two Americas” in the vein of “where cattle outnumber people?” Places where Methodists outnumber bartenders? Where are there more sheep than eligible bachelors? Where are truck drivers more numerous than delivery drivers? Let us know!

To get every question, answer, and factoid in your inbox as soon as we post, register here. If your question inspires a column, we’ll send you an official Department of Data button and ID card. The buttons this week go to Dick and Daniel, as well as Lori, who, when not submitting questions, leads The Post’s business and technical teams – and edits this column.