Constitutional Political Economy

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 108–124

Is it all about competence? The human capital of U.S. presidents and economic performance

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10602-013-9138-7

Cite this article as:
Congleton, R.D. & Zhang, Y. Const Polit Econ (2013) 24: 108. doi:10.1007/s10602-013-9138-7


This paper explores the extent to which human capital improves the economic policy competence of US presidents. Several recent studies have used international data to test similar hypotheses. However, international studies suffer from a variety of comparability issues, not all of which can be avoided through fixed effects and error correction. The US results developed in this paper suggest that both career paths and education have significant effects on a president’s economic policy judgment, particularly in the period after the Civil War. However, the paper also suggests that more than good economic management skills are required to win national elections.


Public choice Political business cycles Human capital Presidential policy 

JEL Classification

D7 E2 D9 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  2. 2.Graduate School of Public AffairsUniversity of OttawaOttawaCanada

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