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The growing wealth gap between Congress and constituents: By the numbers
According to new data, the median net worth of a House member is 35 times that of an average American
Members of Congress leave the U.S. Capitol: The median net worth of House members is $704,500 greater than that of their constituents.
Members of Congress leave the U.S. Capitol: The median net worth of House members is $704,500 greater than that of their constituents.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
T

he economic disparity between U.S. Congress members and the constituents they represent is growing, according to new data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Between 2004 and 2010, the median net worth of members of Congress jumped 15 percent, while the median net worth for the average American dropped eight percent. This is concerning, says Peter Whoriskey at The Washington Post, because "the growth of income inequality has tracked very closely with measures of political polarization." Here’s how the widening gap breaks down:

$280,000
Median net worth of a House member in 1984, adjusted for inflation, according to The Washington Post

$725,000
Median net worth of a House member in 2009, an increase of 160 percent over 25 years

$913,000
Median net worth of a Congress member when the Senate body is included, according to The New York Times

$20,600
Median net worth of an average American in 1984, adjusted for inflation

$20,500
Median net worth of an average American in 2009, a decline over that same 25-year period

35.4 times
How much more the median net value of a House member is worth than that of the average American

$176,000
Annual base pay for a member of Congress

$44,410
Mean annual salary for employed Americans in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics

$864,000
Median net worth of the freshman class of Congress elected last year

26
Increase, in percentage, adjusted for inflation, of the 2010 freshmen's median net worth over that of the 2004 freshmen

$100,000
Amount Rep. Ed Pastor (D - Ariz.) held in his saving account when he was first elected to Congress in 1991, according to The New York Times. In his 20 years serving Congress, he has managed to save nearly a million dollars.

$1.4 million
Average amount spent by winning House candidates on their election campaigns last year

4 times
Increase in the average cost of a 2010 congressional campaign over that of a 1975 campaign, adjusted for inflation. "Running a campaign has become much, much more expensive," says Whoriskey, making it more likely that those who choose to run are already wealthy and can contribute their own funds to a campaign.
 
Sources: Balloon Juice, Bureau of Labor Statisitics, NY Times, Prairie Weather, Wash. Post

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