Which ethnic, gender, political, and religious groups are the most under-represented in law teaching?

If one breaks down law professors defined by one or two of these demographic factors, then the five most under-represented groups compared to the lawyer population and the English-fluent, full-time working population of a similar age are estimated to be the following five groups:

5 Most Under-Represented Groups

1. Christians (47% of law professors; 78% of the English-fluent, full-time working population; 68% of lawyers; difference from that working population: 31%)

2. Republicans (11% of law professors; 38% of the English-fluent, full-time working population; 31% of lawyers; difference from that working population: 27%)

3. Republican Christians (8% of law professors; 33% of the English-fluent, full-time working population; 27% of lawyers; difference from that working population: 25%)

4. Non-Hispanic White Republicans (10% of law professors; 34% of the English-fluent, full-time working population; 31% of lawyers; difference from that working population: 23%)

5. Non-Hispanic White Christians (34% of law professors; 57% of the English-fluent, full-time working population; 59% of lawyers; difference from that working population: 23%)

Assuming a typical law faculty of 40 tenure-track members, 17 Republicans would have to be added for the number of Republicans to rise to parity with the English-fluent, full-time working population, bringing the total faculty size to 57 members. If one instead did similar targeted hiring of Christians, 56 Christians would have to be hired on every faculty of 40.

In “Measuring Diversity,” I estimate the demography of law faculties, lawyers, and the English-fluent, full-time working population, ages 30-75. Because I did not do a new survey of the politics and religion of law professors, I estimated the political and religious representation of law faculties today under two different assumptions.

Under the first way of estimating (results shown above), I use 2013 ABA data for the ethnic and gender makeup of law faculties and then assume that within each group the proportions of each religion and party stayed the same as they were in my survey of 710 law professors in the 1990s.  For example, I assume that while the percentage of white male faculty has changed, white male law professors today are just as Christian and just as Republican as white male law professors in the 1990s.

Under the second way of estimating 2013 representation, I adjust the percentages by assuming that the odds of a faculty member being Republican in 2013 is 50% higher than they were in the 1990s, and that the odds of a faculty member being Christian in 2013 are 50% higher than they were in the 1990s. Under this second way of figuring things, the rankings above would change a bit, but the same general pattern would still hold (Table 18):

Republicans, with a 50% jump in odds

(16% of law professors; 38% of the English-fluent, full-time working population; 31% of lawyers; difference from that working population: 22%)

If the odds of being Christian were 50% higher for each ethnic and gender group than in the 1990s, again the same general pattern would hold (Table 18):

Christians, with a 50% jump in odds (57% of law professors; 78% of the English-fluent, full-time working population; 68% of lawyers; difference from that working population: 21%)

Faculty Viewpoints Less Representative Than They Were in the 1990s

The dominant group in law teaching today remains Democrats, both male and female. Democrats make up nearly 82% of law professors, but only 41% of the English-fluent, full-time working population of a similar age. Further, female Democrats are among the core overrepresented groups, overrepresented in law teaching compared to both the full-time working and the lawyer populations.

One of the main purposes of diversity hiring is supposed to be that, on average, demographic groups have different views based on their differing experiences, which everyone should be exposed to. And political and religious differences in viewpoints are about as large as racial differences, and larger than gender differences.

In 1997 white female law professors overwhelmingly favored the Democratic Party, but at least most white women at that time voted Democratic. That’s all changed. By 2012 white females on balance had switched parties, now tending to vote more Republican than Democratic. Exit polls in 2012 report that white women went 56% for Mitt Romney and only 42% for Barack Obama—and Obama won.

After four decades of hiring to make law professors more representative of American society, law faculties are probably less representative ideologically than they have been for quite a while. While the one-fifth of law professors who are minorities at least offer political views that are roughly in line with most minorities in the general public, the four-fifths of law professors who are white are now out of step with the political views of both the majority of white men and the majority of white women.

Note

For details on how these numbers were generated, including how a 50% increase in odds is computed, see “Measuring Diversity,” particularly Tables 17 & 18.