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Deciding to Quit: A Duration Model of Retirement in Congress
Unformatted Document Text:  benefits of seniority when position in the House was not longer inherently tied to having been there the longest, and others have made similar institutional power arguments (Hibbing 1982). Without a future of influence to look forward to, these victims of career ceilings might be more easily be persuaded to retire, all else being equal. Theriault derived the rest of his model of House retirement from an examination of public statements of members regarding their retirement. This is of course an imperfect way of finding the specification for a statistical model. How often have we heard an elected official retire for “health reasons”, or “to spend time with the family” and then hear in the news of a criminal investigation that is in progress regarding the now retired public servant. Even when not facing the electorate, politicians may not be entirely forthright about their motives. Nevertheless, the things that are cited by members themselves as reasons for retirement should of course be included as controlling variables, for check on whether what one’s theory dictates as important is the truly most significant factor. Theriault also includes most of the other covariates that other portions of the literature have proposed as their pet variables. In this way, Theriault generally covers the waterfront of explanations that have been proposed for House retirement. The limits of the Theriault method of model development, and therefore the limits of the model proposed in this paper, are those inherent to observational research. One cannot control for all factors involved in a member of Congress reaching a decision to retire. Theriault controls for what is seen to be most important based on public speeches and the literature and finds that his operationalization of career ceilings remains the most significant factor. Theriault is quick to claim to have proven causality. I am more hesitant to make this claim. As we shall see, the results found from the modification and

Authors: Sempolinski, Joseph.
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benefits of seniority when position in the House was not longer inherently tied to having
been there the longest, and others have made similar institutional power arguments
(Hibbing 1982). Without a future of influence to look forward to, these victims of career
ceilings might be more easily be persuaded to retire, all else being equal.
Theriault derived the rest of his model of House retirement from an examination
of public statements of members regarding their retirement. This is of course an imperfect
way of finding the specification for a statistical model. How often have we heard an
elected official retire for “health reasons”, or “to spend time with the family” and then
hear in the news of a criminal investigation that is in progress regarding the now retired
public servant. Even when not facing the electorate, politicians may not be entirely
forthright about their motives. Nevertheless, the things that are cited by members
themselves as reasons for retirement should of course be included as controlling
variables, for check on whether what one’s theory dictates as important is the truly most
significant factor. Theriault also includes most of the other covariates that other portions
of the literature have proposed as their pet variables. In this way, Theriault generally
covers the waterfront of explanations that have been proposed for House retirement.
The limits of the Theriault method of model development, and therefore the limits
of the model proposed in this paper, are those inherent to observational research. One
cannot control for all factors involved in a member of Congress reaching a decision to
retire. Theriault controls for what is seen to be most important based on public speeches
and the literature and finds that his operationalization of career ceilings remains the most
significant factor. Theriault is quick to claim to have proven causality. I am more hesitant
to make this claim. As we shall see, the results found from the modification and


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