Campus Reform | LIBERAL ELITES? Profs more likely to have grown up 'socioeconomically privileged,' study finds

LIBERAL ELITES? Profs more likely to have grown up 'socioeconomically privileged,' study finds

A new study found that professors are more likely to have been been raised in wealthy neighborhoods by high-earning parents with advanced degrees.

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A new study investigating the childhoods of tenure-track faculty found that professors are more likely to have been raised in wealthy neighborhoods by high-earning parents with advanced degrees.

Conducted by researchers representing the University of Colorado-Boulder and the Santa Fe Institute, the study, titled, Socioeconomic Roots of Academic Faculty, surveyed “7218 professors in PhD-granting departments in the United States across eight disciplines in STEM, social sciences, and the humanities." 

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Authors Allison Morgan, Nicholas LaBerge, Daniel Larremore, Mirta Gaelic, and Aaron Clauset, say their research uncovered a link between wealth and educational attainment.

“We find that estimated median childhood household income among faculty is 23.7% higher than the general public,” they said, “And faculty are 25 times more likely to have a parent with a PhD".

Discussing childhood class segregation, the authors also said their analysis of residential data reported by college faculty found that professors “tend to spend their childhoods in ZIP codes that are wealthier than the general public.” 

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The researchers say this convergence of inherited wealth and elite education contributes to the underrepresentation of tenured racial minorities in the professoriate. 

"Our results suggest that the professoriate is, and has remained, accessible mainly to the socioeconomically privileged," they said, but "[A] large racial gap in PhD attainment is an intergenerational impediment that limits the proportion of Black and Hispanic scholars who become tenure-track faculty."  

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As Campus Reform has reported before, college professors also overwhelmingly donate to Democrats. In 2021, researchers from the National Association of Scholars released a study finding that college professors donate to Democrats over Republicans by a 95:1 ratio. 

Taken together, the studies show that colleges may be cultivating a culture of what conservative critics of higher education call "limousine liberalism," a term coined in 1969 by New York City mayoral candidate Mario Procaccino to describe members of the financial elite who support progressive political causes. 

Follow the author of this article: Dion J. Pierre