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Monday, April 12, 2021


 I believe the study about faculty with PhD parents is mistaken in its inferences. 17.2% of Black faculty's parents have a Phd. and 16.9 of Hispanic faculty (compared to 23% generally). But, according the the 1997 census data, only 0.3 % of blacks in population had a PhD, and about 1% of whites. Thus a black person on the faculty is much more likely to have a PhD than is a black person who is not a professor. For 2017, about 2% or whites and 1% of blacks have PhDs.  

So that .3% (or around there) accounts for 17 percent of black faculty. I'm taking that as the number because the study uses .9% of the population having PhD. That means that that group is 57 times  more likely to be a tenure track professor than the average black person is. That is more than twice the benefit for the general population. I disagree then that "the racial gap in PhD attainment is an intergenerational impediment that limits the proportion of Black and Hispanic scholars who become tenure track faculty." I mean, technically it is true (23.4 of whites have PhD parents, vs. 17.2 of blacks), but this 6.2% advantage seems less significant to me than the fact that a black faculty member is much more than 50 times ore likely to have a PhD parent than is a black in the general population. 

It seems to me like we should want to have multi-generational educational achievement in all ethnic and racial groups. Put another way, if you made a law that said you had to skip generations in academia, you would lose 23% of whites and 17% of blacks. That seems like it would be an increase in diversity, right? You'd lose a ton of Asians, though, and it would be devastating for other minorities too. Why, because you are eliminating people from the pool who are 50 times more likely to go into academia.  Some of that 17% would be replaced mostly by 1st generation Asian students and the white children of relatively well edducation and affluent but not academic families. 


Leslie B. said...

I had an argument yesterday on the DEI committee about mentoring. They want to improve retention of BIPOC faculty by mentoring them more, because the theory is they have less access to advice. I was saying no, let's not condescend, we'd better pay more, take their expertise more seriously and support their fields more, because a BIPOC person who becomes a professor is by definition someone who understands the standard advice, has thought it through, and knows how to use it to best advantage, they're not likely to be deficient. These statistics add grist to my mill

Jonathan said...

Yes!! We are top 1% and the bipoc profs are top 0.3%. They didn't get a PhD by being mediocre.