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This is a multipart question, but it is seeking to generally understand if the average member of Congress is able to improve his lot financially by entering public service. My experience is that it is not, but I'd like to find some numbers.

Specifically, I'd like to know the following:

  1. How much is a Representative and/or Senator paid?
  2. How does that compare to the average executive or business owner in the US? (These are successful people after all?)
  3. What is the average Net Worth of a member of Congress vs. the average net worth of a college educated American?
  4. What proportion of members of Congress are millionaires or billionaires?
  • +1, well posed question. This site might be useful for any potential answerer: ballotpedia.org/… – Tyler Jan 31 '15 at 3:08
  • Partial answer to #4: 52% of congress are millionaires opensecrets.org/news/2014/01/… – user1530 Jan 31 '15 at 19:25
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    #3 should really be split into "money inherited/earned before Congress" vs "money after" – user4012 Feb 2 '15 at 19:38
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    Questions should be split. – Samuel Russell Feb 2 '15 at 23:07
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    #2 may also be too broad. – cpast Feb 3 '15 at 2:42
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How much is a Representative and/or Senator paid?

Both US Representatives and US Senators receive a base salary of $174,000 plus benefits. The Speaker of the House receives $223,500, and the President pro tem of the Senate and majority and minority leaders in both houses receive $193,400.

How does that compare to the average executive or business owner in the US?

I don't know of any way to calculate 'average business owner'. This is too broad of a definition and fraught with other complexities (such as does the owner even draw a salary?). Plus, I'm not sure if there is a strong correlation between a business owner and a member of congress.

Some possible stats that might work for comparison:

What is the average Net Worth of a member of Congress vs. the average net worth of a college educated American?

The median net worth of a member of congress: $1,008,767

The median net worth of a college graduate (household) in the US: $195,200*

* Note that this stat is kind of hard to find. That number is from page 17 of the referenced PDF report. Also note that that is a household number where the head is a college grad.

What proportion of members of Congress are millionaires or billionaires?

Per the aforementioned article referencing the median net worth of a member of congress, 52% have a net worth over 1 million dollars.

I believe that the percentage of billionaires in congress is 0%. As of 2010, Darrell Issa was the wealthiest in congress with a net worth of only 700 million.

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  • Nice job pulling all this together. It might be in the spirit of the question to compare these numbers to company CEOs (even though they aren't owners, per se). I don't know if there's any more on that than there is on owner salaries, though. – Bobson Feb 2 '15 at 20:23
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    @Bobson the one number that stood out to me was the % of millionaires. In congress, it's 52%. In the US as a whole, it's 1%. Not sure if that means anything, but was interesting. – user1530 Feb 2 '15 at 20:26
  • Also, there's a cap on outside earned income: they can't make more than 15% of their congressional pay from work done for outside entities (including speeches). – cpast Feb 3 '15 at 2:50
  • @cpast that is true but a bit of a red herring. They can't make more than 15% in outside wages but there's no limit to earnings form investments and dividends: newsmax.com/US/Congress-outside-income-triples/2011/09/19/id/… – user1530 Feb 3 '15 at 2:53
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    @DA. No member or senior staff of either house can serve on a board for any pay besides travel reimbursement and insurance (which is treated as a gift). In the Senate, Senators and anyone employed at least 90 days at >=$25k can't serve on any board (even for free) unless it's a 501(c) nonprofit or mostly serves Senate employees and their families (even then, there are strict conflict-of-interest rules). Sources: 1, 2 – cpast Feb 3 '15 at 3:19

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