Meet the new Congress: Younger and more female, it’s still mainly lawyers and career politicians

Voters wanted change, but they may not get all that much in 2015

Republican Mia Love speaks with supporters after winning the race for Utah's 4th Congressional District during the Utah State GOP election night watch party, in Salt Lake City, Nov. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Republican Mia Love speaks with supporters after winning the race for Utah's 4th Congressional District during the Utah State GOP election night watch party, in Salt Lake City, Nov. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

In 2014, voters hated Congress and elected to change it, giving Republicans control of the Senate and an even wider majority in the House. But are the politicians they sent to Washington all that different from the ones they kicked out?

Some things will change in 2015. There will be more women serving in the 114th Congress, which opens Tuesday, than ever before, 104 in total.  And the House Republican majority, with 247 members, will be the party’s largest since 1929. But some things about Congress will remain the same: There will still be plenty of lawyers and career politicians.

With lawmakers back in Washington convening the new Congress, Yahoo News takes a look at the new class of politicians getting ready to join the most unpopular band of people in America this side of Nickelback.

More women than ever, but still not close to proportional

The House and Senate will include 104 female members — just breaking the record set by the 113th Congress in 2012. Notably, 38-year-old Mia Love, of Utah’s fourth district, will become the first black Republican woman ever to serve in Congress, after winning office on her second try. Other firsts include Republican Sen. Joni Ernst, who is the first woman ever elected to Congress from Iowa, and 30-year-old Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican who is the youngest woman ever elected to the House.

Of the 74 new members of the House and Senate elected in November, 18 percent are women. In 2015, women will comprise 19 percent of the Senate overall. Most research shows that women need to make up about a quarter to a third of any given workplace before they start having real influence as a demographic block, so it’s unlikely the new numbers will ring in any major changes. And of course there’s still a huge gap between the representation of women in office and their power at the polls; female voters made up 51 percent of the electorate in 2014.

Only getting younger

With many veteran lawmakers announcing they would not seek reelection in 2014, Congress lost approximately 644 years of collective experience from retirements alone in the House, according to Pew Research, and 132 years in the Senate.

The turnover of more experienced lawmakers has been a trend over the past few election cycles, as many seasoned politicians were either defeated or discouraged from running again because they anticipated being challenged and losing.

Over the last six years, the average length of service as well as the average age of politicians serving has declined, especially in the Senate, according to data compiled by the Congressional Research Service. In 2009, the average age of senators was 63.1 years old, and the average for first-term was 57.1. By 2013, the average age of senators was 62 years old, with the average for new members dropping to 53.

Moreover, according to Pew, by 2014, the majority of U.S. senators — 54 of them — were in their first term, the most since 1981.

The new class of members is even younger: Of the 74 newly elected members of Congress, 14 percent are between ages 30 and 39, 28 percent between 40 and 49, 33 percent between 50 and 59, and only 20 percent above age 60.

That’s still much older than the U.S. population as a whole, though, where the most common age is now 22 years old and the average age of the population has dropped markedly, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The median age is now 37 years old.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, hosts a gathering of new GOP Senators-elect in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2014. From left are: Sen.-elect David Perdue, R-Ga., Sen.-elect Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Sen.-elect Ben Sasse, R-Neb., Sen.-elect Mike Rounds, R-S.D., Sen.-elect Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, McConnell, Sen.-elect Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., Sen.-elect James Lankford, R-Okla., Sen.-elect Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Sen.-elect Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Sen.-elect Steve Daines, R-Mont. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Anyone need a lawyer?

Despite this new blood and the campaign narratives about bringing change to Washington, two professions stand out for sending the largest numbers of people to D.C.: law and politics. Not exactly a surprise there — very few U.S. candidates win a Senate seat in their first attempt at running for office, and many congresspeople start out in state legislatures.

Of the 74 new members, 55 have prior political experience, according to the National Journal’s new-member data files.

Though lawyers still dominate, their ranks are shrinking slightly: Of House members, 37 percent — 160 people — will be lawyers in 2015. So will 53 percent of senators. In the last Congress, 39 percent of the House members were lawyers, along with 57 percent of U.S. senators.

Four new lawyers were elected to the Senate and 16 were elected to the House in 2014, according to a list published by the National Law Journal.

Though this new class of members is packed largely with politicians who have arrived in office along more conventional paths, there have always been some outlier House members with more interesting careers.

Sixteen new members — four in the Senate — have military experience. Two of the new women, Ernst and Arizona GOP Rep. Martha McSally, are among that number.

Only 14 of the new members graduated from the Ivy League.