Improving Expertise of Congressional Staff

congressional staffers capitl

Staff members are essential to a well-functioning Congress, as is the expertise they acquire and use to do their jobs. Researchers with the Center for Effective Lawmaking – a joint project of the Batten School and Vanderbilt University – have published a working paper examining the causes and effects of how staffers expand their skills and knowledge. 

They found that staff whose jobs are less secure — due to their bosses being electorally vulnerable — are less likely to apply for and attend training sessions.

Much of the training provided for staffers is specific to their current jobs but not especially helpful for advancing their careers outside of Congress. If training programs were designed to increase their human capital more generally, the researchers found, staffers with less secure jobs would participate at higher — not lower — levels.

Determining which training programs are building specific or general human capital is crucial. It’s not simply a matter of “if you build it, they will come.” Identifying whether programs are building general or specific human capital will help align these programs with the incentives of the staff who may — or may not — be interested in participating. 

Absent these steps, we should expect that the expertise gaps that exist on Capitol Hill — often due to high staff turnover in congressional offices — will continue to be problematic.


Garrett Hall at Sunset

Stay Up To Date with the Latest Batten News and Events