The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Are conservative and libertarian law professors more productive than their peers?

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A new paper on SSRN by James Phillips, forthcoming in the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, evaluates possible explanations for the apparent lack of law professors with conservative and libertarian views.  Among other things, the paper finds evidence that conservative and libertarian law professors at top law schools publish more and are cited more often than their liberal or ideologically-unclassified peers.

There are multiple possible explanations for these results. Conservative and libertarian professors may get cited more often then their liberal peers because they are more likely to be outliers. If there are fewer people in a given field writing in support of a particular position, they may each get cited more often than those whose work supports more conventional academic positions. Yet whatever the reason for Phillips’ results, they undermine the claims made by some that there are fewer conservative and libertarian law professors because they are less able or less qualified.

Here is the abstract:

There are few conservatives and libertarians in legal academia. Why? Three explanations are usually provided: the Brainpower, Interest, and Greed Hypotheses. Alternatively, it could be because of Discrimination. This paper explores these possibilities by looking at citation and publication rates by law professors at the 16 highest-ranked law schools in the country. Using regression analysis, propensity score matching, propensity score reweighting, nearest neighbor matching, and coarsened exact matching, this paper finds that after taking into account traditional correlates of scholarly ability, conservative and libertarian law professors are cited more and publish more than their peers. The paper also finds that they tend to have more of the traditional qualifications required of law professors than their peers, with a few exceptions. This paper indicates that, at least in the schools sampled, conservative and libertarian law professors are not few in number because of a lack of scholarly ability or professional qualifications. Further, the patterns do not prove, but are consistent with, a story of discrimination. The downsides to having so few conservatives and libertarians in the legal academy are also briefly explored.