Education, Top Stories

In Social Research Fields, Conservatives Are the Most Underrepresented Group

There is general social agreement that discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality or race is wrong – and that increasing diversity along these lines is good.

Ideological diversity? Not so much.

In fact, while noteworthy progress has been made since the 90s in terms of representation for women and ethnic or racial minority groups, the ideological underrepresentation problem is actually growing worse. These trends have had significant negative impacts on the quality and impact of social research.

Yet, even for those who recognize that the lack of ideological diversity is a problem – many are unsure how the scale of this challenge compares to, say, (under)representation of racial, sexual or gender minorities.

This is both an empirical question and a normative question. Here, I will address the former dimension by comparing rates of faculty identification across different identity measures (for interested readers, my thoughts on the moral and practical aspects of the question are available in a new essay for the Times Higher Education).

Overrepresented Groups

With regards to race, research has shown that whites and Asians are overrepresented among tenured faculty. In terms of gender, men are overrepresented among full-time tenured faculty, while women tend to be concentrated in adjunct or otherwise non-tenured positions. Lesbians and gays are also overrepresented among faculty, especially in social research fields.

Progressives are vastly overrepresented in the academy. According to the most comprehensive study on faculty political leanings to date (Gross & Simmons 2014), progressives outnumber conservatives by 10:1 in the humanities and social sciences, despite the fact that conservatives outnumber liberals in the general U.S. population (and pretty much always have).

Comparing Underrepresentation Rates

In order to more easily compare levels of underrepresentation among groups, we can create a common representation quotient by dividing the percentage of representation each group has among full-time faculty divided by the share these groups comprise of the total U.S. population.

On this scale, approaching “1” would signal parity between representation in the academy v. the broader society. Exceeding “1” would indicate overrepresentation, while approaching “0” would indicate increasingly severe underrepresentation. In descending order, the breakdown is as follows:

Faculty Representation in U.S. Higher Education (All Fields)

Group Share of the U.S. Professoriate Percentage of the U.S. Population Representation Quotient Source(s)
Asians &
Pacific Islanders
11 6 1.83 U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016
Liberals 44 26[*] 1.69 Gross & Simmons 2014, Gallup 2018
Whites 75 61 1.23 U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016
Men 59 49 1.2 U.S. Census Bureau, Steiger 2013
Women 41 51 0.8 U.S. Census Bureau, Steiger 2013
Blacks 5 13 0.38 U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016
Conservatives 9 35 0.26 Gross & Simmons 2014, Gallup 2018
Hispanics 4 18 0.22 U.S. Census Bureau, Myers 2016

This is the picture for U.S. colleges and universities overall. However, if we restrict our analysis to social science fields, the dynamic changes dramatically:

Faculty Representation in U.S. Higher Education (Social Sciences)

Group Share of the U.S. Social Science Professoriate Percentage of the U.S. Population Representation Quotient Source(s)
Liberals 58 26 [*] 2.23 Gross & Simmons 2014, Gallup 2018
Whites 81 61 1.33 U.S. Census Bureau, National Science Foundation
Asians &
Pacific Islanders
7 6 1.17 U.S. Census Bureau, National Science Foundation
Men 50 49 1.02 U.S. Census Bureau, Ginther & Khan 2015
Women 50 51 0.98 U.S. Census Bureau, Ginther & Khan 2015
Blacks 5 13 0.38 U.S. Census Bureau, National Science Foundation
Hispanics 4 18 0.22 U.S. Census Bureau, National Science Foundation
Conservatives 5 35 0.14 Gross & Simmons 2014, Gallup 2018

Looking at underrepresented groups: Women are even closer to parity in social research fields than in most other academic sectors. And while blacks and Hispanics are severely underrepresented among full-time faculty in the academy writ large, those faculty that are black and/or Hispanic tend to be heavily concentrated in social research fields (at the expense of STEM fields). However, there also happen to be more faculty employed in social research than most other occupational fields. Therefore, the representation quotients for blacks and Hispanics remain roughly unchanged, regardless of whether we are talking about social research fields in particular, or U.S. institutions of higher learning overall.

However, there is a significant downward shift in levels of ideological representation when we restrict our analysis to social research fields. The representation quotient for conservatives in social science fields is 0.14, which is significantly lower than any other major population group measured. In other words, the lack of ideological diversity seems to be vastly more pronounced in social research fields than underrepresentation in terms of gender, sexuality, and race.


Musa al-Gharbi is a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University and a research associate with Heterodox Academy. Readers can connect with his other work and social media via his website:

A version of this article was originally published by Heterodox Academy


  1. Hutch says

    Any person represented as “conservative” in the above data set would have to self-identify as that ideology and tell a researcher this information. Every person’s definition of “Conservative” will differ to varying degrees.

    I consider myself an overall conservative even though I’m an atheist, pro-abortion and pro-gun control. I know for a fact that the majority of conservatives would not consider me even “centrist” and would likely call me “a classical Liberal”. As time goes the previous definition of conservative shifts in retrospect.

    Every other category of persons in the data set is more or less finite and externally observable such as ethnicity and gender. Yes you have people who like to claim their one gender when their biological sex is different but their representations won’t skew the actual facts off by anything serious.
    Social research fields are fundamentally constructed on principals of primarily left leaning progressive works. Full to the brim of progressive cool aid and sometimes very sound science.
    You didn’t have to present the above to convince a living soul that people in the Social research fields lean heavily liberal (by their own definition).

    You overarching point is the hypocrisy of liberal bases to promote diversity will simultaneously not including conservative persons or viewpoints. That’s my understanding at least.
    The truth however is there is no way a bunch of people with particular vested interests are going to actively campaign for the people with opposing vested interests to be included in their space. It’s self-defeating in an environment when you’re effectively advocating a position as opposed to seeking scientific objective facts.

    University social “anything” faculties are generally progressive spaces by design. Students have to play to that fact. I remember writing essays advocating animal rights like a frothing PETA supporter simply because I knew the jurisprudence lecturers stance on the issues. High Marks ensued while my real world view was completely at odds with what I put on paper. Overcoming the lecturer’s bias in three hours by having to producing some wildly convincing paper was not possible and wouldn’t result in a gain equal to the effort required. This is the reason why people who succeed at university in certain areas are generally the folks who are balls deep in the cool aid of their initial gatekeepers.

  2. ga gamba says

    It’s because progressives have an alternate definition of diversity. It’s not an uncommon occurrence because they have alternate definitions for many other words too, for example racism and sexism. Diversity to them means not white males and not group traitors such as Thomas Sowell, Walter E, Williams, and Glenn Loury. Recently white females and Asians are being included in the those-to-exclude-from-our-diversity gang; still, this is a bit more contextual because in certain areas their lamentations are heard, for example women in STEM and Asians in the performing arts – other than symphony orchestras. Once you decipher the code it becomes crystal clear.

    This raises the question: What’s the reason for redefining words known to most if not all? It’s to bamboozle the general public who don’t delve into these topics. “Diversity? I like tom yum goong, so I’m all for diversity.”

    Most progressives couldn’t care less conservatives or white males are under represented – both are reactionary groups. The kind responses are shrugs or grins; the malicious ones are scowled: “It’s payback.” The lament that conservative views are disappearing from the academe has been voiced for at least two decades and nothing has changed. It’s only worsened. During the same period look at all the progress the LGBT community made. This is not to begrudge their achievements; I think everyone deserves equality (of opportunity) under the law. I mention this to draw attention to the fact that citing a few stats and asking “Where’s muh representation?” isn’t enough. Conservatives need to organise and fight as competently as the left.

    This is the face of white supremacy in America. Look at the undergraduate student demographics at the University of Chicago, one the the world’s most elite universities. It’s about 5% black. “Only five per cent!? Can you believe that!?”

    It’s also 18% Asian-American (a distinction I’ll get to in a moment), 11% Hispanic, 43% white, 0.1% Native American/Pacific Islander, 4% multi-racial, 6% unspecified (presumably representing the transspecies and people of transracial fluidity communities), and 13% international students who are non-resident aliens (and who also have no race whatsoever apparently – so much for their cherished identity and being erased).

    Asians are three times overrepresented – let’s ignore that, okie dokie? No? Drat! Further, they’re gaining admission not only by merit, but by amplified merit on steroids because elite unis actively suppress their numbers by requiring higher test scores and other superhuman achievements. When I was a student there the international students where overwhelming from Asia: China, India, and S. Korea being the largest sending states. Many Canadians also attend UChicago, and they are Asian mostly. Altogether, about 25% of undergrads are Asian, but the registrar’s office will not provide a racial breakdown of international students, so take that with a small pinch of salt.

    Let’s understand the diversity gamers. A foundation principle – our game board – is all American (and Western) institutions are expressions of white supremacy. They mention the curriculum’s inclusion of dead white men and Eurocentric white science. They point to demographics. “A-hah! UChicago is only 5% black but the US is 13% black. Racism! Proved! Game, set, and match.” Here quotas for representation to mirror national demographics are implied, so legs up such as lower test scores must be granted, dumbed-down ‘studies’ departments established to be havens, and autoethnographies recognised as scholastic achievement.

    Though U of C is highly selective with about an 8% admission rate, it lowers the bar to an ACT score of 20 and SAT of 1020, which are 49th and 38th percentiles, respectively. It isn’t Grace Kim and Duc Nguyen with that 20 and 1020. Not only are the people of mediocrity community gaining representation, so too is the community of sub mediocre people. Why not the imbeciles then? I’m sure a man-made construct can fabricate them into superb cardiothoracic surgeons. On the flip side, when another “oppressed” group is four times over represented, merit is acceptable, though measures are taken to not allow it get out of hand. Can’t have too much merit now, can we? That’ll be topsy turvy.

    What explains the diversity gamers’ cognitive dissonance? Despite claims to the contrary, they don’t adhere to an ethical framework – I suppose it’s a metanarrative rubbished somewhere along the line. At best they mention empathy, usually when denouncing someone – another new definition, I reckon.
    I don’t support quotas, but I recognise the merit of having a rule understandable to all when quotas are applied to all. This will displease excellent Asian students but please Asian actors. “Sorry to dash your dreams, Esther Kang. Here, read this script. You’ll play William the Conqueror.” The diversity gamers reject uniform quotas. Merit such as test scores and grades are an understandable-to-all standard too, yet the diversity gamers reject this. Ergo, they have no rules I can discern. In this vacuum then it’s power that prevails. “My allies and I want the power, and by hook or by crook we’ll seize it. Where we have it, we’ll abuse it.” This a la carte picking and choosing the most advantageous outcomes whilst shrieking about “My oppression” is a new take on power politics – metaphorical gunboat diplomacy by a new aristocracy. That is the game. Thus, the diversity gamers don’t recognise their dissonance because the lens through which they view all is simply about attaining and exercising power to the benefit of themselves.

    This time when we repeat history, we won’t be doomed. Just listen and believe.

  3. Todd says

    This is likely to be due to genetic differences, which make conservatives less suited to the kinds of critical thinking required in the social sciences.

  4. nicky says

    Genetic or otherwise, who else but a Ctrl-leftist or third wave feminist (they may overlap) would want to waste their life in xxx-‘studies’ ? Rather start a business.
    It is basically the same idea Mr Damore was unjustly vilified for. Maybe ‘conservatives’ are less interested in making a career in social sciences?

    • For decades the stereotype of the college professor was a stodgy conservative wearing jackets with patches on the sleeves, not the ponytailed unpleasant shouter. The Left chased their enemies out of the academy, and wishes them good riddance. They’re not after discovering the truth, they’re after confirming their ideologies with biased “science”. If the science is false, who cares? The obvious righteousness of their goals frees them from silly, outdated concepts like “truth”.

  5. You seem to be excluding the fact that most men—especially those with conservative leanings—consider most of the ‘social sciences’ to be, hmm, let’s say, a sad joke. Why would they want to devote their lives to something that can’t be taken seriously?

  6. markbul says

    I’ll just comment on the first sentence. To begin, when you say gender, you mean sex. Gender is a linguistic term – in French, the word for ‘pen’ takes the feminine gender. There are two sexes, male and female. There is no need to conflate gender with sex. Doing so just lets the radical left define terms, and thus win debates. Second, no, there is not general agreement that discrimination on the basis of sex or sexuality is wrong. Gay marriage did not win out at the ballot box. Here in liberal Massachusetts the legislature simply ignored a referendum that called for a state-wide vote on gay marriage. A referendum on women serving in front-line units in the military would probably come out anti- in a landslide.

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