There’s been a serious debate at the other place where I blog over whether academia in general, and political science in particular is a sexy profession. I’m glad to say that we actually have Real Social Scientific Data1 that we can bring to bear on this topic. In 2006, James Felton, Peter T. Koper, John Mitchell and Michael Stinson conducted research that sought to establish, inter alia how perceived hotness of professors affected their RateMyProfessors evaluations for teaching quality. As part of this exercise, Felton et al. ranked (Table 2 in their paper) the relative hotness quotients of 36 different academic disciplines. My estimable colleague John Sides prepared a nice graph of the Felton et al. data (see below).
Three important research findings leap out from this picture.
First – that academic disciplines are, without exception, more ‘not’ than ‘hot.’ When adjusted positive and negative hotness scores are totted up against each other, no discipline does better than – 0.062 (Languages). Thus, the main hypothesis of Careerbuilder et al. 2009 is decisively refuted.
Second, the above proviso aside, political scientists are pretty damn hot in comparative terms. We rank as number 5, trailing only languages, law, religion and criminal justice. From eyeballing the data, it looks as though there is a minor discontinuity right after political science, where the hotness lurches down a notch, and another, more significant one between psychology (at number 10) and finance (at number 11).
Third, economists are, without any jot, tittle, scintilla or iota of doubt or ambiguity, the notties rather than the hotties of the social sciences (coming 30th out of 36). Tough luck, John. Sociologists are sixth (heh), philosophers come in at number 9 (which is a perfectly respectable score, I suppose), and English professors are middlin’, at number 12 in the ranking.
(An earlier version of this post appeared at The Monkey Cage)
1 Real Social Scientific Data is a term of art here, meaning ‘statistics that are sufficiently entertaining and gratifying2 that I really don’t want to look at them too hard.’ This understanding of data is very commonly applied in the public sphere of learned debate although it is, perhaps surprisingly, rarely spelled out in explicit terms. I note in passing that some commenter at the Monkey Cage wants to control for differences in sex ratios between professors and students and similar irrelevant persnickets. All I want to say to this pedant (whom I suspect to be a jealous chemistry professor or denizen of a similarly low-ranked discipline) is political science is number 5! Suck on it.
2 In a collective rather than individual sense (I don’t imagine that I’m pulling my discipline’s score up).