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Which Generation Controls the Senate?

Each tile represents a single US Senator. This chart is interactive --tap a tilehover over the tiles for name & age.
www.wcd.fyiSOURCE: ProPublica Congress API

About This Chart

The data used to populate this chart is sourced from the ProPublica Congress API, which itself is sourced from the congress-legislators github project.

Generational breakdown uses age brackets defined by the Pew Research Center, except for "Missionary Generation", which is defined by the Strauss–Howe generational theory:

NameBirth Years
Missionary Generation1860-1882
Lost Generation1883-1900
Greatest Generation1901-1927
Silent Generation1928-1945
Baby Boomers1946-1964
Generation X1965-1980
Millennials1981-1996

Vacancies in the Senate are not uncommon, for instance when a Senator dies or resigns. The tiles on this chart use the Senator that was holding the seat at the beginning of the term, even if they didn’t hold the seat for the majority of the term. This is why Kelly Loeffler and Kamala Harris still have tiles in the current congress.

The senator's age in a particular year is calculated for January 3rd of that year.

While playing around with this, one interesting trend I noticed is how the average age of a Senator has increased over the last seventy years. If you hover over a tile and then slide to the right, you can see how senators at the same percentile of age are now older than they used to be. For instance, a middle-of-the-pack Senator in 1947 was maybe 55 or 56-ish years old. Now, the middle seems to be 65 or 66, a whole decade older! Of course, it would be trivial to calculate and plot mean/median ages for each congress, but, c’mon, isn’t it more fun to explore the data this way?

The chart itself was programmed using D3. The colors use D3's built in Tableau color scheme.

An Alternate View

This table shows percent control of the Senate, by generation by year:

YearMissionaryLostGreatestSilentBoomersGen XMillennials
194726.058.315.6
194919.860.419.8
195116.759.424.0
195314.655.230.2
195510.452.137.5
19577.349.043.8
19593.044.053.0
1961141571
1963132652
1965130645
1967123715
196917758
1971147412
197377617
197557322
197736433
197915346
198147512
198345523
198539574
198733616
198928684
199127694
199324688
1995206614
1997156025
1999125929
200185636
200375241
200564945
200764846
200944452
2011335584
20131296010
2015236215
2017196516
2019156718
20211169191

Updates:

1/21/2021 - Updated colors & highlight style based on feedback from color-blind user

1/22/2021 - Tiles no longer link to senator's biography. It was cool, but kind of confusing on mobile. You should still check out the bioguide though.

1/25/2021 - Added data table view


Thanks for reading!

If you have any feedback, please feel free to contact me: wcdfyi ( at ) gmail.com