The stereotype that professors are more likely to be liberal than people in other occupations was confirmed by a recent study by sociologists Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse:

The study measured a number of reasons why college professors may be more liberal.  Among others, they argued that already liberal people may be drawn to academia because they perceive that academics are liberal.  That is, just as women are drawn to teaching and men to construction work because these jobs are gendered, academia is a politically-typed job that draws people who identify as liberal already.

They also speculate that the relative low pay, given the high educational attainment that the profession requires and high status that it brings, may lead professors to lean towards democratic principles of economic redistribution.  They write:

Deprived of economic success relative to those in the world of commerce, intellectuals are less likely to be invested in preserving the socioeconomic order, may turn toward redistributionist policies in hopes of reducing perceived status inconsistency, and may embrace unconventional social or political views in order to distinguish themselves culturally from the business classes (quoted here).

I think this is a fascinating and provocative question, even given Gross and Fosse’s excellent work, and one that I’ve wondered about many times.  Thoughts?

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
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