Young Leaders

Launched in 2002 with funding from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Young Elected Leaders Project (YELP) studies and works with young people who run for or hold public office. We provide unique insight into youth representation in U.S. political institutions and study young leaders’ experiences in public office.


About the Young Elected Leaders Project

The Young Elected Leaders Project is led by Dr. Elizabeth Matto, Research Professor and Director of Eagleton’s Center for Youth Political Participation. The research team includes Lead Graduate Research Assistant Brittany Anlar.
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Current Data

YELP collects data on young people in politics at federal, state, and local level and provides analyses on the age, gender, and racial composition of political bodies in the U.S. Learn more about youth representation on our Current Data page or follow the links below.

The United States Congress


**Updates from 2022 Midterm Elections to Come!!**

Aresty Research Assistant Program

Through Rutgers’ Aresty Research Center, undergraduate students can apply to join the Young Leaders team for the duration of one academic year. This unique learning experience enables our Aresty students to contribute to ongoing research projects on young people serving in or running for office. The program concludes with a presentation of the students’ research findings at CYPP in addition to their presentation at Aresty’s annual symposium.

Learn more about the Aresty Research since 2018.

Highlights from the Original Report

After its launch in 2002, the Young Elected Leaders Project collected data on young elected officials throughout the United States and conducted surveys about their background and leadership experience. In May 2003, young elected leaders (age 35 and younger) were invited to the Eagleton Institute of Politics for a conference on young people serving in office. In 2004, Ruth B. Mandel and Katherine E. Kleeman published the project’s findings in the report titled “Political Generation Next”. The full report can be downloaded here. The key findings of the report are summarized below.

Young Elected Leaders are Few and Familiar

In 2002, the Eagleton study identified a total of 814 men and women age thirty-five and younger serving among all officials in Congress, statewide elective executive positions, state legislatures, and municipalities with over 30,000 population. Young elected officials held approximately 4.8 percent of all these positions combined, constituting a minuscule proportion of public officials. They included six Members of Congress, two statewide elected officials, 321 state legislators, and 485 municipal officials.

What Makes Young People Run?

Young elected leaders grew up in homes where politics might well have been a dinner-table topic of conversation. Their families not only talk about politics – they engage in politics.

Young Elected Leaders Don’t Bowl Alone

Young elected leaders tend to be active citizens. Similar to U.S. political elites of any age, young political officials are joiners and doers, tuned in to the world around them. They are also more trusting of people’s motives than are young people in general.

What Do Young Leaders Think?

Political party identification, ideology (conservative, moderate, liberal) and views on cutting edge issues.

Young Elected Men and Women-Differences and Similarities

Among the respondents to the survey of young elected leaders, we found a number of significant gender differences. We also identified several areas where, sometimes surprisingly, no gender differences were evident.

Presidents as Young Elected Leaders

Even the Presidents of the United States had to start somewhere. Check out past Presidents as Young Elected Leaders.

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