If you want senators to be better at lawmaking, elect more women

Encouraging more women to run for office could bolster the ranks of effective lawmakers, as women by our measure outperform men in certain contexts. Recruiting more candidates from among state legislators might also improve lawmaking, because we find that senators who previously served in “professionalized” legislatures (meaning full-time, well-paid and well-staffed assemblies) outperform their peers. Recruiting the most effective House members to run for the Senate would also help, because highly effective House lawmakers also tend to succeed in the Senate.

Institutional features also matter. In the House, we found that term limits placed on committee chairs undermined that chamber’s lawmaking effectiveness. Meanwhile, representatives who cultivate bipartisan relationships and co-sponsor bills are more successful at making laws than are partisans.