Bryan Caplan  

The Ivory Tower: Do Non-Leftists Want In?

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Gross and Fosse have a supply-driven theory of leftist domination of higher education:

A pair of sociologists think they may have an answer: typecasting. Conjure up the classic image of a humanities or social sciences professor, the fields where the imbalance is greatest: tweed jacket, pipe, nerdy, longwinded, secular -- and liberal. Even though that may be an outdated stereotype, it influences younger people's ideas about what they want to be when they grow up.

Jobs can be typecast in different ways, said Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse, who undertook the study. For instance, less than 6 percent of nurses today are men. Discrimination against male candidates may be a factor, but the primary reason for the disparity is that most people consider nursing to be a woman's career, Mr. Gross said.
My colleague Dan Klein's not buying this.  Non-leftists with Ph.D.s in the humanities and social sciences are still much less likely to be academics:

We found that 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.

The individuals we are talking about here are members of the American Anthropological Association, the American Historical Association, and so on. Most had PhDs. So we find that Republican-voting members of such associations are consistently more likely to be working outside of academia - in government, private sector, independent research, or other. Do we think these people don't care for research and learning, that they just don't want the income, security, prestige, and student attention that professor status affords? Then why are they members of such associations?

Klein persuasively argues that the nurse analogy falls flat:
Besides, the analogy to male nurses doesn't ring true for the non-left professor -classical liberal, libertarian, or conservative, not moderate or uncommitted. I've never dreaded telling an acquaintance I'm a professor. I don't fret that he would assume I like FDR or The West Wing or single-payer healthcare. Why should I care if he did? Would a woman dread reactions to the revelation that she is an elite chess or poker player---both games dominated by men? More likely such a woman would feel special pride in having cracked a male field. Many non-left professors may feel that way. Also, the non-left professor surely has the comfort of blaming leftist bias for his not being more eminent.
But doesn't the basic economics of discrimination make non-leftist whining grossly implausible?  Not at all.  As I often remind Alex Tabarrok, the basic economics of discrimination assumes that firms maximize profits.  Since academic departments are essentially non-profit worker coops, widespread discrimination is not just possible, but likely.


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COMMENTS (9 to date)
Matt writes:

Maybe there is a correlation with a passion for theoretical vs the emperical and those that are liberal vs. conservative.

Kurbla writes:

Some leftist do not like working for profit; the rightists have less problems of that kind. As industry usually pays better, the rightists are less resistant.

It is at least partial reason.

Loof writes:

Why would anyone want "in" - and be imprisoned by academic elitism in the Ivory Tower: disconnected from the real world, esoteric, over-specialized and generally lacking commonsense? In wanting to be an egghead, Loof would rather be a flathead outstanding in a field; not a pinhead compartmentalized in the Ivory Tower.

Loof writes:

But, best of all: Loof would rather be that egghead walking on the wall, so well balanced that he’s not afraid to fall.

Pietro Poggi-Corradini writes:

"academic departments are essentially non-profit worker coops".

Is this true? Many state universities only get some percentage as state funding. Also the emphasis of administrators on undergrads seems to indicate that tuition is a big deal.

Krinken writes:

"A pair of sociologists" That is hilarious!
No experiment, no control group, no good analysis.

Ryan Vann writes:

@ Krinken

Yeah, it's kind of ridiculous,

Troy Camplin writes:

I have a Ph.D. in the humanities and I just started working at a hotel. That's obviously not my first choice. But it's where the extremely discriminatory Left have put me. I want an academic job, but I can't get one. Heck, I would like to get a think tank job, but David Boaz himself told me he didn't know how to "pigeonhole" me. Too much of a classical liberal for my own good for the one, too interdisciplinary for the other. So I'm working at a hotel.

Tom Buechle writes:

For whatever it's worth, I am a nurse who happens to be male and I am very conservative.

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