Heterodox Academy strives to promote open inquiry, constructive disagreement, and viewpoint diversity in institutions of higher learning – and especially within social research fields.
This mission includes promoting diversity in terms of the oft-discussed categories of race, gender and sexuality – as well as the less-discussed (but also pressing) lack of diversity along the lines of class and geography — and of course, the intersections between these categories.
However, up to now many of our efforts have concentrated on the issue of ideological diversity in institutions of higher learning. There are a few reasons for this.
First, there is general social agreement that discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality or race is wrong. However, many in the academy believe it is acceptable or even desirable to exclude non-progressive perspectives. In fact, while noteworthy progress has been made since the 90’s in terms of representation for women and ethnic or racial minority groups, the ideological underrepresentation problem is actually growing worse.
We were concerned about these trends primarily because the lack of ideological diversity seemed to be undermining the quality and impact of social research. Therefore, much of our initial labor was to help our colleagues recognize that the lack of ideological diversity is a real problem, and to commit themselves to being part of the solution.
However, a question has come up time and again regarding the relative scale of these challenges: how does the lack of, say, political diversity measure up when compared to underrepresentation by race, gender or sexuality? To get at this question, we can compare rates of faculty identification across different identity measures.
- With regards to race, research has shown that whites and Asians are overrepresented among tenured faculty.
- In terms of gender, men are overrepresented among full-time tenured faculty, while women tend to be concentrated in adjunct or otherwise non-tenured positions.
- Lesbians and gays are also overrepresented among faculty, especially in social research fields.
- Non-Christian faiths (particularly Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus) tend to be overrepresented among faculty, but amount to relatively small numbers for both faculty and the general population. The religiously unaffiliated (atheists, agnostics, religious “nones”) represent a much larger share and are significantly overrepresented as well.
- Progressives are vastly overrepresented in the academy. According to the most comprehensive study on faculty political leanings to date (Gross & Simmons 2014), progressives outnumber conservatives by 10:1 in the humanities and social sciences, despite the fact that conservatives outnumber liberals in the general U.S. population (and pretty much always have).
- While we are not able to directly compare the socioeconomic backgrounds of faculty, we can reasonably infer from information about graduate school completion and school placement rates (see here then here) that faculty are disproportionately likely to come from families in the upper quartile of income.
- We can similarly infer that faculty are likely to hail from cities and the suburbs over towns or rural areas… particularly from metropolitan areas along the West Coast or the Northeast Corridor running from Boston through Washington D.C. (see here, here, here, here for more data on geographical disparities in higher ed).
Comparing Underrepresentation Rates
In order to more easily compare levels of underrepresentation among groups, we can create a common representation quotient by dividing the percentage of representation each group has among full-time faculty divided by the share these groups comprise of the total U.S. population.
On this scale, approaching “1” would signal parity between representation in the academy v. the broader society. Exceeding “1” would indicate overrepresentation, while approaching “0” would indicate severe underrepresentation. In descending order, the breakdown is as follows:
|Group||Share of the U.S. Professoriate||Percentage of the U.S. Population||Representation Quotient||Source(s)|
|Non-Christian Faiths||13||6||2.17||Gross & Simmons 2009, Pew 2014|
|11||6||1.83||U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016|
|Liberals||44||26[*]||1.69||Gross & Simmons 2014, Gallup 2018|
|Religiously Unaffiliated||31||23||1.35||Gross & Simmons 2009, Pew 2014|
|Whites||75||61||1.23||U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016|
|Men||59||49||1.2||U.S. Census Bureau, Steiger 2013|
|Women||41||51||0.8||U.S. Census Bureau, Steiger 2013|
|Christians||53||71||0.75||Gross & Simmons 2009, Pew 2014|
|Blacks||5||13||0.38||U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016|
|Conservatives||9||35||0.26||Gross & Simmons 2014, Gallup 2018|
|Hispanics||4||18||0.22||U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016|