Black Faculty in the Social Sciences: Gains in Sociology and Political Science But No Progress in Economics

Nationwide about 5 percent of all full-time college and university faculty are black. But this figure includes the large numbers of blacks who teach at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. Therefore, the percentage of black faculty at the nation’s predominantly white institutions is probably closer to 4 percent.

A new study by Ann M. Beutel and Donna J. Nelson of the University of Oklahoma finds that blacks have achieved a significant representation on the faculties of the nation’s major research universities in the disciplines of political science and sociology. But the study found that blacks are still very rare in the economics departments of these universities.

Beutel and Nelson surveyed the 50 departments in each discipline with the largest research budgets according to rankings established by the National Science Foundation. The departments with the largest research budgets generally are at large universities and tend to be the most prestigious in their fields.

The survey found that there were 1,318 faculty teaching political science at universities with the 50 largest research budgets in the field. Of these 1,318 scholars, 66, or 5 percent, are black. More than 60 percent of the black political scientists at these universities are men.

In the field of sociology, the survey found a total of 1,066 scholars teaching at the 50 universities with the most prestigious sociology departments. Of these, 70 or 6.6 percent are black. In sociology the gender gap was smaller than in political science with black men holding 54 percent of the posts held by African Americans.

But black scholars have made little headway in economics. The survey found a total of 1,338 faculty of all races at the 50 universities with the largest research budgets in economics. Only 21 are black. Thus, blacks make up only 1.6 percent of the total economics faculty at these universities. More than three quarters of the black economists at these universities are men.