The Corner

‘Why So Few Conservative and Libertarian Professors?’

That’s a question that has preoccupied George Mason University’s Dan Klein for a while now. Yesterday, he reported on some new research that sheds more light on this issue:

Bias against conservatives is not the main reason, nor are the allegedly higher IQs of liberals, say Neil Gross of the University of British Columbia and Ethan Fosse of Harvard. Instead they suggest a theory of “path dependence” — few conservatives are attracted to work in scholarly fields dominated by the left, just as few males want to be nurses in a traditionally female field. People tend to giggle when a man wants to become a nurse, they say, and conservatives tend to feel similar embarrassment in entering leftist academe.

But Klein adds that the giggle theory doesn’t address the consequences of this leftist domination on faculties.

In the recent book The Politically Correct University: Problems, Scope and Reforms, Charlotta Stern and I discuss groupthink mechanisms. The majoritarian procedure of each department means that once a majority leans left, the department will tend toward leftist uniformity. The pyramidal structure of each discipline means that publication, awards, grants, recommendations will follow the pyramid’s apex, and if the apex goes left it tends to sweep leftists/neuters into job posts throughout the pyramid.

If leftists have a lock on many fields, it means that non-left applicants will tend to be screened out. Awareness of that feeds back to the non-left student’s thoughts about the future. Self-selection is a function of the screening.

There is much more information and data on this interesting question here, such as:

Republican-voting members of the scholarly associations were significantly more likely to have landed outside of academia. For example, in Anthropology/Sociology, 43% of the Republican scholars were working outside academia, compared with only 24% of Democrat scholars. In History, it was 47% versus 27%. In all six disciplines overall, it was 41% versus 25.

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