Jeffrey Sachs Profile picture
Sep 20, 2018 20 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Earlier this week, @CassSunstein beat the extremely well-beaten drum about academia's partisan imbalance. Suggesting it may be due to discrimination, he worries about the impact of it all on students and faculty research.

Is it true? Is he right to worry?…
Let's take these one at a time.

1) Is there an imbalance?

Absolutely. Surveying soc sci/humanities disciplinary orgs (n=1700), Klein & Stern (2005) put the D/R ratio at about 8:1. Moreover, panel data has all faculty to the left of their party's median.…
Not good, but there are three problems with this data: 1) It's just soc/humanities; 2) Evidence suggests disciplinary orgs skew left relative to rest of the academy; and 3) Membership in orgs skew toward elite/R1 institutions.
To correct for all this, Zipp and Fenwick (2006) use nationally representative data from 1989 and 1997 to show that the ratio of lib-to-con isn't so bad, and in fact improved (i.e. grew more moderate) during the 1990s.…
Using more recent data, Gross and Simmons (2007) survey about 1500 full-time faculty at 927 institutions (incl. 4-year and 2-year schools). They find a sizeable moderate bloc and a lib/con ratio of 3:1, but with wide variance depending on the field.…
Important to note that D:R and lib:con are not the same thing. Also, faculty cons are much less religious than cons in general and more likely to be libertarians/hawks.

Regardless, at the end of the day, the gap is big. Unclear how big, but it's real. Score one for Sunstein.
2) What's the cause?

While Sunstein presents no evidence for discrimination, two studies are highly suggestive. Inbar and Lammers (2012) asked members of a social pysch org whether they would discriminate against conservatives. The #s are upsetting.…
Rothman, et. al. (2005) also say discrimination, pointing to the lower quality institutions that conservatives teach in even after controlling for publication output. Evidence, they say, of a glass ceiling.…
But I'm skeptical. Woessner and Kelly-Woessner (2009) and Fosse, Gross, and Ma (2014) show no evidence of discrimination at key junctures on the road to faculty employment.……
1) Political ideology has minimal to no effect on levels of joint faculty-undergrad research, off-campus meetings, socializing, etc.


2) Departmental DGS are just as likely to promptly and positively respond to prospective conservative students as to liberals.
I feel like I should be tagging some interested parties here. Hey @Noahpinion @jasonintrator @Musa_alGharbi @JonHaidt. I'm doing a thing.
Anyway, the literature is also quite clear that whatever role anti-conservative bias might play in hiring decisions is swamped -- absolutely SWAMPED -- by the role of publications.

[Note to self: I should be writing]
So while we can't reject the discrimination hypothesis, the evidence is weak. By contrast, the evidence that conservatives self-select out of the academy is very, very strong.

You, a conservative academic: *sputtering with rage*
Me, a liberal hack: Hear me out.
First, con undergrads are much more likely to major in fields that offer non-academic careers (sciences, professional studies, etc.).* Second, they rate much more highly income and starting a family, neither of which fits the academic lifestyle. This is apparent even as freshmen.
* Yes, I am aware of the endogeneity problem here. Woessner and Kelly-Woessner (2009) have some clever ways of dealing with it.
More speculatively (but, to me, convincingly), Gross 2014 suggests a self-reinforcing cycle: conservatives believe they don't belong in the academy, causing fewer to join, increasing the number who believe they don't belong.…
One thing is for certain: Conservative and liberal seniors report equal levels of satisfaction with their college experience, so we're not seeing a broad mass of angry conservatives driven out of the academy by a bunch of pitchfork-wielding Marxists.
In other words, it's much more likely that self-selection is causing the imbalance than discrimination by advisors or hiring committees.

On this question, I award Sunstein a Gentleman's C.
Wow, this thread is already way too long -- did I mention I should be writing? -- so I'll pause here and start another one in a moment. The question we'll tackle there is whether, given the reality of the D:R split, we should care. In other words, is indoctrination a thing?

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More from @JeffreyASachs

Oct 7, 2018
The Anti-Politics Machine: or, a unified field theory of the Intellectual Dark Web
What is the IDW, et. al.? A huge amount of journalistic effort has been spent trying to nail down precisely what the IDW believes, the values it promotes, the future it is working toward.………
"They're just a bunch of conservatives!" (except some are pretty liberal). "Enlightenment fetishists," (but Jordan Peterson is a total mystic). "The pseudo-intellectual face of the alt-Right," (you're thinking of the Claremont Institute).
Read 18 tweets
Sep 20, 2018
Thread #1 (on the lib/con imbalance in the academy and its causes):

Thread #2 (on whether college indoctrination is a thing):
The findings:

1) The faculty imbalance between right/Republicans and left/Democrats is real.
2) Discrimination is, at most, a minor factor. Mainly it's self-selection.
3) Students are not indoctrinated. They're just not.

So what are the big lessons of all this?
1) Outfits like Quillette, College Fix, and TPUSA make their bucks by flogging the "My Marxist prof is trying to brainwash me" beat. Ignore them. Those stories are either false or exceptional and in no way representative of the vast majority of student experiences.
Read 7 tweets
Sep 20, 2018
In THREAD #1, I examined the question of whether there is a partisan or ideological imbalance within the academy (spoiler: there is), and what the causes might be (spoiler: it's complicated). You can read it here:

This thread is trying to figure out whether, if the imbalance exists, we should care. Sunstein worries that it's going to impact faculty research and student learning. Is he right?

I'll let the good people at @HdxAcademy field the research issue.…
But what about students? Does the imbalance impact them? Are they *gasp* being INDOCTRINATED by CULTURAL MARXISTS?! It's a popular theory, one made not too long ago by cool kid's philosopher and noted Manafort sockpuppet @benshapiro in his book "Brainwashed" (2004).
Read 24 tweets
Sep 12, 2018
Whenever a tenured professor gets fired for "free speech", it's a big deal. I didn't want to say anything without more info, but I'm ready at this point to offer a few quick thoughts. (THREAD)
I speak, of course, of Bruce Fleming. An English prof at the US Naval Academy, he was fired last month for his speech. Specifically, speech critical of the academy, its faculty, and its students. Example: he called his students "right-wing extremists".…
Criticizing your students is disgusting behavior. I don't care if you teach English at the Naval Academy or politics at Marquette. It's shameful.

It is, however, constitutionally protected. At least at the Naval Academy. Cue the outrage, right?
Read 7 tweets
Sep 3, 2018
Institutions second-guess themselves all the time. It's natural and healthy. The presumption shouldn't be that when a particular individual is especially controversial, such second-guessing is especially wrong.
This happens in the context of college campus speakers more than you might think. Example: UCLA College Republicans disinvited Milo to one of their events after being importuned by their faculty advisor.……
They decided, rightly, that inviting him was a mistake and not disinviting him would do longterm damage to the group. This has happened to Milo a lot lately (e.g. Politcon).

So here's the question: Milo's ideas are popular. *Milo* is popular. Is it wrong to disinvite him?
Read 4 tweets
Aug 24, 2018
I would flip this slightly to say that "explaining as labor" is one of those concepts that critics often claim is obnoxious SJW idiocy, when what they really mean is it's a valid idea that has been taken to absurd extremes or used in unethical ways.
Because we can all intuitively recognize and sympathize with the core complaint that the "explaining as labor" folk are making. Think of your own life, of those times when someone operating in bad faith, or perhaps just from a position of incuriosity, imposes on your intellect.
Just as we can recognize the core validity of concepts like intersectionality, "words as violence", cultural appropriation, or identity politics.
Read 6 tweets

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