Paul L. Caron
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Law Schools Overwhelmingly Hire Liberals as Law Professors

NJ Following up on my prior post, Ideological Diversity and Law School Hiring (July 20, 2010): National Jurist (Nov. 2010), Law Schools Hiring Liberal Educators:

A new study shows that law schools overwhelmingly hire liberals as law professors.

There has been much discussion about liberal bias in higher education, and now a new study confirms that law schools are indeed hiring more openly liberal law professors than those who are conservative.

The study [Ideological Diversity and Law School Hiring], conducted by two University of California, Berkeley law students -- James Phillips and Douglas Spencer -- shows that 52 of 60 hires in 2005, 2007, and 2009 were liberal -- a ratio that "doesn't speak well of the intellectual diversity of American law school hiring."

The two students compiled a sample of 149 entry-level, tenure-track hires and assigned a measure of ideology for each based on political donations, Facebook profiles, work experience, publications and the political party of the president who appointed any federal judge for whom the professor clerked.

Figure 1 

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2010/11/law-schools.html

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Comments

Bear in mind when you're using the quick tables they use household income rather than individual income. In the example I used, if you do likewise (replace CONRINC with CONINC) the R/D ratio pretty much reverses. A pair of GS-12s married to each other could easily break the 155K mark. I agree in terms of individual salary you'd probably miss a lot of engineering PhDs (though I know a couple who do pretty well); my point with that example was that intelligence level is not consistent across the postgrad population.

I was amazed the first couple times I ran the education vs party affiliation tables too, since I've always heard that going to college makes people liberal. Not hardly. Actually, I do think it makes people more socially liberal, but party ID is where one has to pick a side. If this is the effect leftist indoctrination in our colleges is having, Republicans should be screaming for more of it, not condemning it.

Posted by: J | Nov 12, 2010 8:07:11 PM

"In Row, enter "partyid".
In Column enter "degree"
In Filter, enter "conrinc(155374-235707)". This will filter results for inflation adjusted salaries for respondents from first cohort with a median income greater than $150K to the cohort with highest median income. 54.5% of postgrad degree holders in this group identifies as R/R leaning, versus 33% D/D leaning."

This tool is pretty cool. Doesn't this use cumulative data though? One thing I noticed in the Quick Tables is that the partisan gap in both income and education has narrowed a lot since the 70s.

Also, the partisan gap is beyond overwhelming if you look at the subset with a college degree only (70R - 17D). Just found it fascinating.

p.s: By using a $155k sort, you realize you exclude a lot of the PhDs in engineering (Bay Area salaries notwithstanding), right? It wouldn't surprise me if that sort catches more diploma mill MBAs (as you call it) and second tier JDs than PhDs in engineering.

Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Nov 12, 2010 7:30:29 AM

My only real issue with the education metric is that I frequently hear it used as evidence to support statements like that Steve made that intelligent people are more likely to be liberal, by noting, correctly, that most people with graduate degrees identify as Democrat. It is an exceptionally powerful meme, as you demonstrate, and frequently elicits charges of anti-intellectualism when questioned. I question the general use of education at the graduate level as a proxy for intelligence because not all degrees are equal. “People with graduate degrees" includes many people who have degrees they either bought or were awarded simply for showing up. I don't think it's rational to say somebody who got an EdM in their spare time or bought a diploma mill MBA is in the same intellectual league as somebody who spent four years at Berkeley getting a PhD in electrical engineering, and in the "people with graduate degrees" group, there are a LOT more of the former than the latter. Thus, to separate out people who have graduate degrees and really are probably smarter than the rest of us, I use the admittedly imperfect metric of graduate degree and high income. Which brings us to the GSS tool.

In Row, enter "partyid".
In Column enter "degree"
In Filter, enter "conrinc(155374-235707)". This will filter results for inflation adjusted salaries for respondents from first cohort with a median income greater than $150K to the cohort with highest median income. 54.5% of postgrad degree holders in this group identifies as R/R leaning, versus 33% D/D leaning.

The fascinating thing about running this sort, even without the income filter is, as I noted above, the evidence that despite all the talk about leftist indoctrination in our universities, one thing our universities are very successful at producing is Republicans.

Posted by: J | Nov 12, 2010 6:33:46 AM

"I disagree that I'm trashing anyone; if you work for the government and can get paid more money for getting a graduate degree, getting one in the most efficient manner possible is a wise decision. A lot of people do just that (virtually everyone I worked with when I worked in the public sector), and there's a huge segment of the education industry that caters to that market and is acutely aware of exactly what the customer wants."

Right. Not disagreeing. Just wondering why you said - "...trouble is, high achieving, highly educated people (GSS proxies: income >150K, postgrad degree, party ID) overwhelmingly identify as Republican."

Why even bother using education as a proxy if you have tons of issues with the metric.

Anyway, I went to the SDA and I can't seem to find any screen that shows that people with post-graduate degrees who make above 150k "overwhelmingly identify as Republican." Back in the 70s, sure. Not this decade.

Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Nov 11, 2010 12:50:43 PM

You'll need to use the link above that one, but just to clarify, my R/D preference numbers were for people with postgrad degrees, not people with high income. Also, I was using respondent income adjusted for inflation rather than family income.

I disagree that I'm trashing anyone; if you work for the government and can get paid more money for getting a graduate degree, getting one in the most efficient manner possible is a wise decision. A lot of people do just that (virtually everyone I worked with when I worked in the public sector), and there's a huge segment of the education industry that caters to that market and is acutely aware of exactly what the customer wants.

"must hate those people, whoever they are"

No, I hate seeing people waste their time and money.

Posted by: J | Nov 11, 2010 9:04:37 AM

Feeling lazy this morning, I just looked at the Quick Tables in your link. $120k and over breakdown as roughly 37% D/D lean to 48% R/R lean. Got better numbers, for a higher bracket, per chance?

Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Nov 11, 2010 7:51:47 AM

"I'm not going to suggest that anyone would, um, mislead an exit pollster about things like income or education, but I think a lengthy, in person interview in which this sort of information is verified might be a teensy bit more accurate than an exit poll. I could be wrong."

Yeah, I guess people only lie about income and not education in exit polls.

Based on what you wrote, basically trashing a good portion of people with a post-graduate education (not saying I disagree), why even bother with education as a metric? Why not just look at "high achievers" (numbers which you didn't provide us with in your post). $150k seems a little low, but its a starting point.

p.s: Grievance studies PhDs? Not sure what you're referring to, but you must hate those people, whoever they are.

I am

Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Nov 11, 2010 7:43:55 AM

"Stuff like this is so easy to look up, but no one bothers these days .....

(http://abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/ExitPolls/)"

I listed the variables I used; the GSS tool can be found here: http://sda.berkeley.edu/archive.htm.

I'm not going to suggest that anyone would, um, mislead an exit pollster about things like income or education, but I think a lengthy, in person interview in which this sort of information is verified might be a teensy bit more accurate than an exit poll. I could be wrong.

Note that I'm pretty sure the postgrad vote for Obama is accurate; 50.2% of postgrads identify as D/D-leaning, vs 37.6% R/R-leaning, so that ratio is what you'd expect. Nearly a third of all graduate degrees are in education. Throw in public administration, soft humanities, and diploma mill MBAs - all easy degrees for which a certain employer whose employees overwhelmingly vote democratic will pay you more money - and it's pretty clear why that happens, hence the "high achieving" qualifier. EdMs, grievance studies PhDs, and folks with online MBAs probably aren't making that cut.

Where did I describe engineers as Republican?

Posted by: J | Nov 11, 2010 6:34:38 AM

"Law school hiring is credential, not merit, based."

Also, it seems like law school pedigree isn't exactly the worst proxy for intellectual firepower. Saying its credential-based doesn't mean it isn't merit-based.

Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Nov 10, 2010 8:54:27 PM

"The trouble is, high achieving, highly educated people (GSS proxies: income >150K, postgrad degree, party ID) overwhelmingly identify as Republican."

Stuff like this is so easy to look up, but no one bothers these days .....

(http://abcnews.go.com/PollingUnit/ExitPolls/)

Income greater than $200,00k:
Obama 52, McCain 46

Post graduate study:
Obama 58, McCain 40

p.s: If you've ever worked with engineers, you'd know that Republican is not a word you'd use to describe us. If there was a dominant ideology, its that we're amendable to persuasion with evidence.


Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Nov 10, 2010 8:52:12 PM

"Maybe there's just a simple answer; liberals are smarter than conservatives, and law school hiring is largely merit-based"

The trouble is, high achieving, highly educated people (GSS proxies: income >150K, postgrad degree, party ID) overwhelmingly identify as Republican. You hear stuff like this from humanities grad students, apoplectic that the engineer or MBA (fields of study they would have or, in some cases, actually did flunk out of) they're waiting on spills more money than they make, trying to convince themselves the ability to discuss Jane Austen or Titian inexplicably makes them smarter than people with actual job skills.

I suspect there's a combination of discrimination and selection bias at work. As you sort of note, liberals tend to think people who disagree with them are stupid, which makes it easy to rationalize their discrimination. On the other hand, conservatives generally do agree that "those who can't, teach", and regard teaching as a low status profession for people less competent than their comparably educated peers.

Law achool hiring is credential, not merit, based.

Posted by: J | Nov 10, 2010 7:22:19 PM

Steve Zorn figured it out, but with one qualifier.

Liberals think they are smarter than conservatives, so they tend to hire each other.

Posted by: Woody | Nov 10, 2010 7:04:30 PM

Maybe there's just a simple answer; liberals are smarter than conservatives, and law school hiring is largely merit-based.

Posted by: Steve Zorn | Nov 10, 2010 4:27:56 PM

It stands to reason that most conservatives choose not to enter fields where their prospects for advancement are limited, so the pool of potential conservative professors is driven down by the stranglehold of liberals in positions to recommend promotions and tenure and by the vocal and miserable attacks by the left against conservative professors.

Mike Adams - "Only political activity"

For the last several years, I’ve been making the argument that conservative professors (all three of us) are often punished for our beliefs by our so-called liberal colleagues. This year, during annual peer evaluations, one of my liberal colleagues has apparently punished me for expressing my belief that liberals punish conservatives for their beliefs.

There is usually little at stake in these annual peer evaluations because bad professors and good professors get roughly the same annual raise. Nonetheless, some professors still sharpen their knives every year in anticipation of using the evaluation process to quietly and anonymously stab their enemies (real or perceived) in the back. This is just in case administrators decide to distribute a little merit money - after spending most of the resources on themselves, of course.

The backstabbing - by liberals who want to construct an Utopian society, no less – got so bad in my department a few years back that we had to amend the process to force people to justify (with actual sentences!) any negative evaluations of their colleagues. This was done largely to stop one sociopath who was giving scores of one (on a scale of one to nine) to numerous perceived enemies in the department. ....


Posted by: Woody | Nov 10, 2010 2:31:27 PM

"My business school faculty was much more balanced, ideologically."

I never quite understood the value of "balance." Doesn't it just translate into affirmative action for ideas/opinions.

Since this seems to serve as a cathartic to a lot people, I can see why no one has posed the more relevant question - is there any indication that

(a) qualified conservatives have been rejected from teaching positions, or

(b) that pool of candidates from which law professors come from (top 5-10 law schools) isn't overwhelmingly liberal to begin with? (If graduates pumped out by elite universities are overwhelmingly liberal, would you expect any less off a "bias" in the candidates hired as faculty?), or

(c) that there isn't a selection bias here? (liberals --> teachers; conservatives ---> accountants)

If people could take their partisan hats off for a second, there's a lot of interesting information here.

Posted by: Nolo Contendre | Nov 10, 2010 10:00:44 AM

What would be the proper proportion of creationist biology professors?

Posted by: anonymous | Nov 10, 2010 8:51:52 AM

It took a study to figure this out? Seriously?

I had exactly one professor who was even remotely "conservative" and that was for UCC Sales. All the rest were "very confident liberals". I've discussed this with other lawyers from time to time, and they have told me their experienced were similar.

My business school faculty was much more balanced, ideologically.

Posted by: Dante Driver | Nov 10, 2010 8:51:49 AM

This is part of full employment. If schools don't hire these people, they will be unemployed.

Posted by: PropertyPaul | Nov 10, 2010 7:55:59 AM

This makes sense to me. The liberal agenda promotes big government and institutions. It stands to reason that the employees of a big institution such as education would be liberal.

Consider this, in all of the cries for cutting costs, for all of the cries of how expensive things are, how is it that college education keeps going up by 8 to 10% per year (well beyond at least normal inflation), but no one ever does anything about it?

The liberal employees of the institution? No
The government? No
The taxpayers continue to fund this machinery while the marketing campaign continues about how tuition and books need to increase every year.

Higher education is a huge scam funded by the taxpayer and imposed upon the taxpayer

Posted by: flash | Nov 10, 2010 7:43:34 AM

MilwaukeeD gets my vote for the best comment.

- - -

JGiven: "when you educate a group of individuals such that they are qualified to teach law, they will be more likely to be liberal than conservative...."

In response, and with all due respect to the blog author, a quote attributed to various sources: "Those who can -- do. Those who can't -- teach."

On a lighter note...Woody Allen: "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach gym".

Some law professors should be teaching gym.

Posted by: Woody | Nov 10, 2010 7:01:59 AM

Has anyone noticed how corporate executives are overwhelmingly Republican? Its not bias, simply self-selection based on temperament.

Posted by: Jon Small | Nov 9, 2010 8:56:46 PM

My law school professoriate was anything but homogenous. There were 93 professors, only 91 of whom were registered Democrats and donors to Democrat politicians. See? Diversity!

There was one relatively apolitical registered Republican, and one Green Party member.

When the Republican retired he was replaced with a registered Democrat whose primary claim to fame is hard to characterize but seems to be gay critical theory studies - as if the school had to somehow counteract the psychic effect of the ghost of a memory of a more or less moderate Republican prof who once worked there.

Those fascists aren't getting a single red penny of my money... though a red penny would be pretty appropriate, in light of the school's politics.

Posted by: Joe Blow | Nov 9, 2010 6:14:27 PM

This is "news"?

Posted by: Jake | Nov 9, 2010 5:55:03 PM

"when you educate a group of individuals such that they are qualified to teach law, they will be more likely to be liberal than conservative?"

I suppose that's possible, but it would conflict with GSS data measuring the general effect of education after high school. GSS data is pretty clear that to the extent going to college is going to influence your political views, it is going to shift them to the right, not the left. The effect tapers off at the graduate level (and there's a reason for that, but in the interest of avoiding thread creep...), but those with postgraduate degrees are still far more likely to identify as Republican, for example, than a high school dropout. You are almost certainly correct that there are fewer conservatives interested in teaching law than liberals; indeed, left leaning people seem inherently more interested in that line of work, and I'm sure that plays a significant role in faculty makeup. The trouble is that it also leads to academic inbreeding (as does hiring credentialed people with no work experience as professors).

"a subject where the vast majority of educated people have one view, and a tiny minority have another view (for example, climate change"

Hopefully this won't cause the thread to go off track, but this is an excellent example. The vast majority of educated people are no more qualified than your cat to assess whether global warming is a real problem, and this includes a significant percentage (if not majority) of the scientists in bodies like the IPCC, many of whom are experts on what the likely effects of AGW would be if it happened, not on whether it's likely to happen. The fallacy that the judgement of highly educated people can be trusted in areas they know little or nothing about can be very dangerous, regardless of the issue.

Posted by: J | Nov 9, 2010 5:05:39 PM

I'm shocked. Shocked to find there's gambling in here.

When the "Simpsons" first came out, a friend of mine wouldn't let her children say "duh", because she said it wasn't a word. I wouldn't let my children say it because it is a word, and it means "Good God. I can't believe you are so stupid." To this report, I say "duh". Of course. If a good many of the law professors were lawyers who had practiced for years, and then went into teaching, that would be one thing. But I don't believe that is what is happening. Instead, the vocal and active liberal group works harder at getting committee assignments and gaining control, including who gets hired. Both sides will work to diminish the middle. Some how conservatives are more of a "live and let live" persuasion, while liberals seem more interested in spreading their philosophy. Perhaps that's insecurity. The more others around them think the way they do, the more comfortable they feel.

I would bet we would find similar patterns in the hiring of liberal or orthodox theologians at seminary's and divinity schools.

Posted by: MilwaukeeD | Nov 9, 2010 4:55:26 PM

At my law school, there was a Republican adjunct who didn't get renewed, and they hired some Harvard guy who claimed he was conservative, but was about as conservative as David Brooks. The commitment to diversity only goes so far.

Posted by: Brian G. | Nov 9, 2010 3:22:50 PM

Wow, J. Given, just wow. There's not even a way to respond to that.

Posted by: rrr | Nov 9, 2010 1:56:36 PM

But what is the ideal ratio supposed to be? 50/50?

There is an oft-repeated adage among progressives that the truth has a liberal bias. Isn't it just possible that the reason for the apparent liberal bias among law school hirings (which for sake of this entry I will presume to be true regardless of the quality of any studies done) is that when you educate a group of individuals such that they are qualified to teach law, they will be more likely to be liberal than conservative? So there may simply be less conservative candidates available who are interested in teaching law.

Besides, the idea that intellectual diversity requires proportional equivalence is simplistic.

It's like have the "fair and balanced" debate on a subject where the vast majority of educated people have one view, and a tiny minority have another view (for example, climate change, not that I want to embark on that here). If 90% of the people most qualified to teach in a particular area all felt more or less the same way about something, would we find ourselves bending over backwards to give 50% of the teaching jobs to the remaining 10% so that their views could receive equal time? Some representation would be useful in order to force the 90% to confront legitimate questions they might not otherwise face, but we should not be seeking a rough equivalence on some vague normative basis.

Posted by: JGiven | Nov 9, 2010 1:21:06 PM

If they focused only on business law, they'd probably find a much more right wing / free market bias.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 9, 2010 1:18:58 PM

While at Georgetown Law in the late '50s I recall getting into a heated discussion with a newly hired professor. He thought that the US should unilaterally disarm to be a good example which the other nations would assuredly follow. Right.

Liberal professors are nothing new.

Posted by: jimbrock | Nov 9, 2010 12:59:28 PM

Remind me again? Why do we have law schools with full time professors?

Posted by: Walter Sobchak | Nov 9, 2010 12:57:17 PM

But see Fred Siegel (arguing that today's liberals have an awful lot in common with what used to be called conservatives).

Posted by: mike livingston | Nov 9, 2010 12:54:59 PM

My experience with UConn Law was similar to Kurtis'.
Here's a rich story from those days. I had a young professor for Federal Courts while Bush v Gore was ongoing. After the semester she admitted got her class talking points from a law-prof blog. She totally mischaracterized the precedents and even the claims and counterclaims, with errors always making the Gore side look better. I pulled the actual filed court briefs from the courts' own websites the night before her class and pointed out her factual errors, publicly in front of her class of 70+ students every day she took up the topic. She punished me on her 5% class participation points but it was worth it.

Posted by: Wyatt's Torch | Nov 9, 2010 12:39:05 PM

Jim Lindgren comments on the study here:

http://volokh.com/2010/07/20/questions-about-a-new-study-on-political-diversity-in-law-schools/

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Nov 9, 2010 12:33:20 PM

Did you read the article, though? The "study" seems seriously flawed.

First of all, they admit that out of their sample of 149 tenure-track hires, they could not determine the political views to 60% of them. In fact, the article even suggests that this study may only indicate that conservatives are quieter about their political leanings early in their career. Of course, that could be due to a legitimate fear of a bias against them, but that's a completely different conclusion that what is implied here.

Second, it only looked at people who were hired. If you want to find a bias in hiring practices, you have to look at people who applied and were rejected, as well. If I stand outside a bar on a Friday night to poll people on whether or not they drink alcohol, my statistics are going to be more than a little flawed.

I agree that there is likely a liberal bent in higher education and that it should be discussed (I'm not convinced that it's a conspiracy of institutions, though). This sort of thing, however, is just shark baiting.

Posted by: Walter | Nov 9, 2010 12:31:34 PM

My experience at Columbia Law School in the late 80s / early 90s was that the older professors were relatively apolitical, had actually practiced law, and then had sat down to write a book or two because they found that interesting. Maybe they had family wealth or other station that kept them "above the fray". The new professors were outwardly political, had rarely practiced law, and were creatures of academia. Those in the middle years were a mix of the two. I also ran across hard core partisans. I was the president of the Federalist Society, so everyone pretty much knew where I stood in matters. Some professors appreciated the challenge. Others were clearly embittered by the thought of dissent.

Posted by: Kurtis Fechtmeyer | Nov 9, 2010 12:04:40 PM

Academia is left wing politics / Democrat party politics by other means.

Let's stop pretending otherwise.

Posted by: Greg Ransom | Nov 9, 2010 12:04:11 PM

As a lawyer, I'm not good with numbers, but I wonder what it would do if you set aside a few schools, say Notre Dame, Ave Maria and George Mason (maybe Regent, as well). Would the right side of that graph shrink even further?

Posted by: randy | Nov 9, 2010 11:54:08 AM