We are proud to offer to our readers—and to all who study U.S. political history—the American Leadership Database. This is a graphical and interactive information center that will help anyone investigate generations of American political leaders.
At LifeCourse, we are often asked about the political leadership exercised by each generation, both in our own lifetimes and going back in American history. Once readers become accustomed to thinking about generations born at a particular time with their own location in history, their own attitudes and beliefs, and their own sense of collective identity, they want to know more about the timing of each generation’s political ascendancy and decline. How are such peer groups concentrated by region? How do they lean by political party? When did they take over Congress? How early did they enter office and how long did they live? The American Leadership Database is designed to help users ask and answer just these kinds of questions.
The Database is presented here on seven pages. Four pages offer non-interactive general indicators, intended to provide a broad overview of generational facts and trends over the entire sweep of U.S. history. Two pages offer interactive query tools, which enable users themselves to choose what information they want. The final page is an explanation of definitions, methods, and sources.
In what years did the Gertrude Stein’s “Lost Generation” comprise more than half of America’s governors and members of Congress? (Answer: 1941 through 1953.) When did the G.I. Generation, also known as America’s World War II-winning “Greatest Generation,” reach its high-watermark of political representation? (Answer: 1965.) In what year did Boomers first achieve a generational plurality of national leaders? (Answer: 1999.)
Our general indicator pages allow users to reflect on big questions like these. Several indicator pages feature tables, which are exportable to Excel, and various graphs highlighting important trends.
A summary of the Revolutionary Era offers a generational breakdown of participants in major events and congresses during the revolutionary era. These include the colonial delegates to the Stamp Act Congress (1765), known members of the Boston Tea Party Riot (1773), signers of the Declaration of Independence (1776), signers of the U.S. Constitution (1787), revolutionary or state governors (1775 to 1787), delegates to the Continental Congress (1775 to 1787), and Presidents of the Continental Congress.
Leadership Shares refer to each generation’s share of all leaders, year by year, since 1789. The share is calculated separately for three U.S. bodies: all senators, all representatives, and all governors. “National” leadership shares are the unweighted average of the shares in these three bodies.
Average Age tracks the average age of leaders since 1789. The average age is calculated separately for three U.S. bodies: all senators, all representatives, and all governors. The “national” average age is the unweighted average of the ages of these three bodies.
Entry Into Leadership shows how early in life each generation assumes political power by computing its leadership share in the year its oldest members reach age 42. Again, this number is computed separately for each body (Senate, House, and governorships) and an average is computed for all three bodies.
Power Indices present several measures of each generation’s relative leadership tenure in office over its entire lifetime. Three indices separately quantify lifetime tenure in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. governorships. A fourth index quantifies average lifetime tenure in all three bodies.
Many readers will want to go beyond the summary presentations. They will want to define their own generations or cohort groups—and they will want to give their questions a special regional, political, or chronological spin. Imagine asking the following:
From the end of the Civil War until 1929, how many senators from the South belonged to the Republican Party? How many in New England belonged to the Republican Party? (Answer: for the South, 173 out of 1,029, or 17 percent; for New England, 389 out of 418, or 93 percent.)
Who was the oldest member of Congress at the time of Pearl Harbor? Who is the youngest today? (Answer: Sen. Andrew Houston, D-TX, born in 1854; and Aaron Schock, R-IL, born in 1981.)
What share of all U.S. leaders (Congress, governors, Presidents, VPs, and Supreme Court Justices) were old enough to personally recall the ratification of the U.S. Constitution at the following moments: U.S. entry into the War of 1812, the Crash of 1837, U.S. entry into the Mexican-American War, and the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860? The answer is 98 percent, 34 percent, 10 percent, and 1 percent, respectively.
Of all leaders who were age 18 to 25 at the time of Woodstock (in 1969), how many are Republican? What about all leaders who were age 18 to 25 (in 1980) when Reagan won his first election as President? (Answer: for front-edge Boomers, 43 percent; for tail-end Boomers, 57 percent.)
The Query Tools are presented on two pages:
- Leadership Query by Congress allows the user to select a single Congress, or several Congresses as a group, and then to further select the position and the state or region. The database will list all leaders meeting these criteria. It will also break down these leaders by generation and party and calculate their average age of entry and their longevity by party, by generation, and overall.
- Leadership Query by Birth Year allows the user to select a span of birth years, and then to further select the position and the state or region. The database will list all leaders meeting these criteria. It will also break down these leaders by generation and party and calculate their average age of entry and their longevity by party, by generation, and overall.