A Matter of Time: Some Consequences of State Legislative Term Limits

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There is considerable rhetoric and speculation about the impact of term limitation proposals on state legislatures, but little in the way of empirical analysis. In this paper we examine multi-state data on legislators' backgrounds, and explore the potential impact of term limits on different groups. We are especially interested in the effect on cohorts categorized by gender, race, party, and leadership position. Using data that constitute a demographic snapshot from the late 1980s, we are able to demonstrate that if term limits were immediately imposed, they would affect male Republicans, and leaders and committee chairs more than rank-and-file. It does not appear that term limits would have a significant impact on the representation of African-Americans.