Pathways to Power: The Role of Preparliamentary Careers and Political Human Capital in the Obtainment of Cabinet Positions

Tomas Turner-Zwinkels*, Melinda C. Mills

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Understanding the rise to power is central to the study of politics. Yet, we still know little about the career paths of influential politicians like ministers. The literature assumes that dominant preparliamentary occupations (e.g., lawyer, local offices) predict promotion. We move beyond this potential ecological fallacy and suggest a perspective that emphasizes the role of gatekeepers and political human capital like national political experience and education. We leverage complete career data of all Dutch MPs (N = 1,263; 1945-2012) and study their (N = 4,966) opportunities to obtain a cabinet position. A sequence analysis with fuzzy clustering reveals eight career paths in both the professional and political domain. A logistic regression analysis that uses these career paths as predictors shows that prominent occupations and communicative experience do not constitute the pathway to ministerial power; a university education and preparliamentary national political experience do. Findings support the value of political human-capital theory to understand political promotion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-252
Number of pages46
JournalLegislative studies quarterly
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - May-2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • ministerial recruitment
  • political careers
  • political elites
  • political human capital
  • AMBITION
  • IMPACT
  • LABOR

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