Maltzman, Sigelman and Binder (1996), in what we regard as monumental work, have reinvigorated the study of death in office. But their data analysis is incomplete. First, they fail to project realistically the trends in actual and expected congressional deaths illustrated in Figure 1 of their paper. Second, like many congressional scholars, they do not pay sufficient attention to the Senate. We provide new evidence that the U.S. Senate may offer the solution to mankind's oldest quest, the fountain of youth (Gilgamesh n.d.; de Leon 1460–1521).
Table 1 presents data on the proportion of U.S. Senators who died in office, by decade, from 1910 to 1990 (CQ 1995).
We plotted the senatorial mortality rate data reported in Table 1 versus year (for data grouped by decade) as shown in Figure 1.
The r2 for the regression of mortality rates on time is an astonishingly large .87. Rarely have we seen such a clear time trend. Senators are increasingly not dying in office.
However, as our colleague, Bernard Grofman, pointed out to us (personal communication, April 2, 1995), projecting this equation past 1990 would give us negative estimates of mortality rates as early as the year 2000. Given the strength of our empirical results and the scholarly commitment we share with Gelman and King (1990) to investigating incumbency effects without a priori bias, we do not reject the idea of revenants out of hand.