Report: Texas Legislature has greatest percentage of lawyers

Posted on: June 13th, 2011 by Patrick Brendel No Comments

As a hub for tort reform and conservative rhetoric, Texas might be expected to have a statehouse with a demonstrable anti-attorney bias. If that’s the case, then Texas lawmakers are a self-loathing bunch. According to a new nationwide study by The Chronicle of Higher Education, Texas has the highest percentage of state legislators with a law degree.

Texas is the only place where more than 30 percent of state legislators have a law degree (30.4 percent). Rounding out the top 5 are Florida (29.4 percent), New York (29.2 percent), Virginia (28.6 percent) and Massachusetts (27.6 percent). Overall, 17.2 percent of state lawmakers in the U.S. have law degrees.

With 86.2 percent of state lawmakers having a bachelor’s degree or more, Texas ranks fifth overall in the country, behind California (89.9 percent), Virginia (88.6 percent), Nebraska (87.3 percent) and New York (86.8 percent). Overall, 74.7 percent of state lawmakers in the U.S. have a bachelor’s degree or more.

By comparison, about 25 percent of Texans have a bachelor’s degree or higher, and 46 percent did not attend college at all.

Texas also is fifth on the list for the percentage of lawmakers attending in-state colleges (71.1 percent), behind Louisiana (80.3 percent), Michigan (75.4 percent), Oklahoma (72.4 percent) and North Dakota (72.3 percent). Overall, 55.3 percent of state lawmakers in the U.S. went to a college in their states.

The University of Texas at Austin is the most popular alma mater among Texas’ 181 state legislators, boasting 36 alums. Next are the University of Houston (21 lawmakers), Texas A&M University (19), Baylor University (14), Southern Methodist University (12), Texas Tech University (12), Texas Southern University (10), Harvard University (9), St. Mary’s University (8) and UT-Arlington (7).

Recently the Texas Independent reported on the educational attainments of public university regents, finding that, on average, Texas’ regents are less-educated than peers in other large states, and that regents of Texas’ smaller independent universities are generally more-educated than regents of the state’s large university systems.

Four Texas regents — all on the boards of either Midwestern State University or Texas Woman’s University — have a Ph.D. or doctorate in education. Overall, nine Texas regents have a doctoral degree (including medical degree-holders). By comparison, according to the Chronicle, nine Texas legislators have a doctoral degree, including state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), who was attacked by right-wing conservatives for being ‘elitist’ when she said that she as a doctorate-holder understands university research, whereas Gov. Rick Perry, who has a bachelor’s degree, does not.

According to a New York Times article on the Chronicle study (which was largely based on self-reported data from the public officials via Project Vote Smart):

“Jeffrey J. Selingo, The Chronicle’s editor, said his staff had set out to look at the educational background of state legislators after hearing complaints from college administrators that they were losing state aid and scholarship money because legislators had never been to college themselves and did not understand higher education.

“In fact, Mr. Selingo said, state legislators tended to be far more educated than their constituents, though even in statehouses with an abundance of college degrees, “that doesn’t necessarily translate into higher support for higher institutions.”"

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