Study shows extent of hiring bias in academia: 20% of schools produce 80% of tenure-track profs

"Faculty hiring networks in the United States exhibit a steep hierarchy in academia and across all domains and fields…."

There are approximately 5,300 universities and colleges in the United States. In 2020, 18.99 million students were enrolled in the U.S, about 13.87 million in public colleges, while private colleges had a gross enrollment of 5.12 million.

A new study, "Quantifying hierarchy and dynamics in US faculty hiring and retention," demonstrates the overdetermination of particular universities in the hiring patterns for new faculty across the US.

The article, first published in "Nature on 21 September, shows that just 20% of PhD-granting institutions in the United States supplied 80% of tenure-track faculty members to institutions across the country between 2011 and 2020 (see 'Hiring bias'). No historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) were among that 20%. One in eight US-trained tenure-track faculty members got their PhDs from just five elite universities: the University of California, Berkeley; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; Stanford University in California; and the University of Wisconsin–Madison."

This is an extensive and impressive study, also engaging the following themes: "pre-eminence of US doctorates" in the market pool; "universal production inequality" as a result of a skewed hiring market; the impact of academic networks and connection on women on the tenure track; the self-hiring effect, i.e., getting hired at the institution you earned your Ph.D.; and the "ubiquitous hierarchies of prestige" that consequence a structural imbalance in the meritocratic order.