Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interesting article on jobs and typecasting

Professor Is a Label That Leans to the Left, looks at the influence of typecasting of jobs on career aspirations. One reason that many professors are more liberal to leftist on average may well have to do with the way the academic world has been typecast:
The academic profession “has acquired such a strong reputation for liberalism and secularism that over the last 35 years few politically or religiously conservative students, but many liberal and secular ones, have formed the aspiration to become professors,” they write in the paper, “Why Are Professors Liberal?” That is especially true of their own field, sociology, which has become associated with “the study of race, class and gender inequality — a set of concerns especially important to liberals.”

What distinguishes Mr. Gross and Mr. Fosse’s research from so much of the hubbub that surrounds this subject is their methodology. Whereas most arguments have primarily relied on anecdotes, this is one of the only studies to use data from the General Social Survey of opinions and social behaviors and compare professors with the rest of Americans.

Mr. Gross and Mr. Fosse linked those empirical results to the broader question of why some occupations — just like ethnic groups or religions — have a clear political hue. Using an econometric technique, they were then able to test which of the theories frequently bandied about were supported by evidence and which were not.

Intentional discrimination, one of the most frequent and volatile charges made by conservatives, turned out not to play a significant role.
The rest of the article is pretty tantalizing, and I hope to read the published findings once they've been through the peer review process. To my conservative friends - especially the movement conservatives, I'll assure you that there is no conspiracy going on to keep conservatives out of the so-called "ivory tower." Rather, conservatives often weed themselves out long before they'd even be in a position to consider an academic life. And yes, the more loudly mass media pundits complain about how awful the academic world is, the number of potential conservative academicians probably continues to drop. Look at it this way: if all I ever seem to hear is how "this job sucks" or "the people who work there suck", that career option is going to become a big turn-off for me.

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