Paul L. Caron

Friday, August 3, 2018

Conservative/Libertarian Faculty Candidates Are Hired By Law Schools Ranked 12-13 Spots Lower Than Equally-Credentialed Liberal Applicants

James Cleith Phillips (UC-Berkeley), Testing a Beckerian-Arrowian Model of Political Orientation Discrimination on the U.S. Law Professor Labor Market: Measuring the “Rank Gap”, 2001-2010:

There are comparatively few conservative and libertarian law professors on U.S. law school faculties. Why is this? One possible explanation is discrimination based on political orientation. This paper tests this using a model of discrimination based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning economists Gary Becker and Kenneth Arrow in order to measure the “rank gap”—the difference in the ranking of a hiring law school based on one’s political orientation after controlling for other predictors of that ranking (clerkships, publications, the law school one graduated from, etc.).

The paper, using matching statistical methods, finds that upon comparing conservative/libertarian law professors hired from 2001-2010 with equally-credentialed liberal law professors, conservatives/libertarians end up, on average, at a law school ranked 12-13 spots lower (i.e., less prestigious). (See pages 36-37.) This rank gap is not uniform, being more moderate with the top 75 schools, non-existent with schools 76-100, and the largest with the lowest-ranked schools. (See page 40.) The paper finds a similar “rank gap” for law professors whose political orientation was unknown or moderate compared to their liberal peers. Thus, while there may be other mechanisms causing the dearth of conservative/libertarian law professors in the legal academy, those who do make it in the door appear to experience discrimination based on political orientation.

The paper also discusses the harms that a lack of conservative/libertarian law professors causes. Namely, legal scholarship suffers from an echo chamber; law students, particularly liberal ones, may not sufficiently learn how to make or counter conservative and libertarian arguments; and law and policy is not as strong as it could be without conservative/libertarian critiques and perspectives. (See part I.A, pages 5-11.)

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One does wonder about the data for this study. The only time I've ever heard political ideology of candidates discussed around faculty hiring was when the University of Illinois Law School Dean (Heidi Hurd) said no women of the many interviewed were being brought to the faculty for consideration because she wanted to go after what she called the "under-appreciated" young conservative white males. I have no idea who among my colleagues is actually voting democratic, republican, marxist or libertarian unless they say something at an informal gathering when it is relevant. Certainly don't generally know that information about potential faculty hires. I suspect that is true of most faculty. We look at how a faculty candidate presents his or her ideas to the faculty, at what the candidate writes and whether the candidate makes good arguments (whether or not we favor the positions the candidate takes). The idea that law schools select primarily based on political ideology is, frankly, another of those conspiracy tales that those on the right use incessantly to convince their base that intellectuals are against them.

Posted by: Linda Beale | Aug 6, 2018 2:27:43 PM

Brian - did you even follow the link to see that what is reposted here is SSRN's abstract?

Posted by: Jim | Aug 6, 2018 8:46:22 AM


Posted by: Mike Petrik | Aug 5, 2018 4:52:58 AM

Seems a good time to remember that John freaking Yoo teaches law at Boalt-Berkeley Law or whatever it is named this year. Yeah, just one data point, but it's a data point showing that the architect of Dubya's torture regime teaches law at what is often considered the most liberal university in the country.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 4, 2018 12:03:52 PM

Brian, you raise a very good point. Please explain to everyone why the paper is such obvious junk. Readers need to understand and not be fooled!!

Posted by: Mike Petrik | Aug 4, 2018 10:53:01 AM

Law schools are very, very narrow. Conservatives are plainly discriminated against, but so probably would be marxists, radical feminists, people who took nonwestern systems of law seriously, and so forth. Everything always looks "neutral" when you are standing in the middle of it

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Aug 4, 2018 3:06:15 AM

Paul, I'm genuinely curious: is there any pseudo-science purporting to show that "conservatives" aren't treated fairly you won't post about? Did you even read this paper? It's such obvious junk, I'm astonished.

Posted by: Brian | Aug 3, 2018 8:21:26 AM