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This is an interesting hypothesis! Just a question about the final recommendation: do you think the perception of flight risk could also be reduced by just having fewer papers in higher-ranked journals?

Or: what do you think would be more desirable from the perspective of these schools - one or two per year in lower-ranked journals vs. just one paper in a higher-ranked journal?

Round two

This profile basically describes me to a T: I went to a lower-ranked school for my PhD, but I published a bunch of papers in good journals, and managed to get together a decent teaching record. This is now my second year on the market, and it looks like I'll have a grand total of 0 interviews to show for my trouble. It's a really frustrating position to be in. I'm probably going to have to leave the field if nothing pans out this year.
Also, can we pause for a moment to consider how absolutely crazy it is that this is what happens? What grad program you go to gets determined 5+ years before you go on the market based on some paper you wrote when you were an undergrad or MA student. Somehow this past decision by an admissions committee matters more to a search committee than a person's publications and teaching records, even though the latter are *exactly* what determines whether one eventually gets tenure. Is this in any way justifiable? Is pedigree just a really good predictor of future productivity, even more than current productivity? I really doubt it. The fact that prestige plays such a big role in our discipline should make all philosophers ashamed.
I think the real advice for PhD students in lower-ranked departments isn't to publish less and to focus more on teaching: it's to quit, and say "good riddance" to an intellectually bankrupt profession.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Anon: Thanks! I'm not sure about your first question ("do you think the perception of flight risk could also be reduced by just having fewer papers in higher-ranked journals?"). My gut tells me "maybe"--that one paper in a fairly highly-ranked journal may not make you look like a flight risk, but that more than one probably will.

I feel more confident about the answer to your second question ("what do you think would be more desirable from the perspective of these schools - one or two per year in lower-ranked journals vs. just one paper in a higher-ranked journal?").

To me, this is a no-brainer. For non-elite teaching schools, it is *way* better to have one or two papers per year in lower-ranked journals compared to a single paper in a highly-ranked journal. The reason for this is simple. People hiring at teaching schools want to know two things: (1) will you get tenure?, and (2) will you stay? Top-ranked publications are not necessary for tenure at many teaching schools (I know plenty of people who got tenure without them). What is typically necessary for tenure is multiple publications. All that one top-ranked journal article shows is that (A) you were able to publish once, and (B) you might be a flight risk. Neither of those is particularly positive. Multiple publications in lower-ranked journals show that you have been able to publish consistently (a positive for teaching schools) and that you are not a flight risk (another positive).

At least, this is my sense. I don't have empirical data to back these claims, but I've been around a while now to see how things seem to work.


I had Tim's profile. Five years on the market, lots of publications (more each year of course), Multiple top-5, top-10 or whatever. Crickets from the US market over 5 years. I did better elsewhere.

I can't speak to the SLAC part. But that first bit of your hypothesis, about no matter how well one publishes... All you really need to do is talk with a bunch of people at the relevant class of US schools. Many don't try to hide it (or aren't aware that they're signalling it).

Additionally, too many pubs is commonly viewed with disdain these days (and often with some masked resentment/jealousy or some unconvincing attempt at justification for the disdain). I'm reminded of Michael Scott, assessing his employees. When he gets to Jim Halpert, he says (paraphrasing, since I don't remember the quote) 'Jim is dumb. You know how I know? I can spend a whole day on an assignment, while Jim will get it done in 30 minutes.' (This is all before quality is assessed - quality should matter more than brute number of pubs in my view, but those who pretend to care most about quality are usually gatekeeping rather than actually impartially assessing the work of all those junior philosophers.)

Much sympathy to everyone on the market this year.


Hi Marcus,

As you note I have said this before. And actually it is a theory I have been throwing around for at least four years. It has shocked me when people at my grad institution didn't believe me when it seems so clear. It is like they thought there was only one way to get hired, and teaching schools and research schools all wanted the same thing.

Personally I am pretty certain of this theory. Almost all the successful people I know on the market either fit the teaching or research profile.(yes there are exceptions to everything) Teaching profile is mid to lower ranked school, lots of teaching experience, and lower ranked publications whether it be many or a few. One might be able to eek by with a couple of top 20 (but not top 10) if you are from a non-ranked program. Research school profiles are top ranked school (almost always), and the publications can vary from a few top ones and some lower-ranked, no publications, or a few top ones. Usually this profile has very little teaching experience. Anyway, I think many people who blame gender for their lack of interviews actually have what we might call the "falling in the middle strategy" to blame.

Now let me be clear I COMPLETELY disapprove of this. Mostly I disapprove of the need to go to a top school for a research job. But this does seem to be the way it works.

Postdoc Quinns

Tim seems to suspect that his exact race & gender combination is affecting his results on the market. Marcus, you hypothesize that Tim's profile is affecting his results on the market. That hypothesis is consistent with Tim's suspicion. It could still be (and likely is) the case that, were Tim's gender or race different, his results would be different.

Is it his profile, or his race/gender, that is the bigger difference-maker?


Someone should ask philosophers from research school why they hire the way they do. From European perspective this seem crazy (but many things in U.S seem to be crazy).I cannot think of any other explanation than that the philosophers who hire are lazy. It is hard to evaluate whether 2 publications in Nous is better than 4 in Bioethics or whether 2 in Philosophical Quarterly is better than 5 in Religious Studies. But it is easy to check from Leiter's ranking that NYU is better than Boulder and Boulder is better than non-ranked school. So are philosophers who hire lazy?


At my R1, PhD granting institution, we divide up applications among the committee and each person makes a list of ten-twenty people from their section (every application gets read by two different people). I won't speak for my colleagues, but I read almost every writing sample (and this is what we are supposed to do); exceptions include if the person is wildly outside of the area we are hiring in, or if their application is so weak in other ways that a quick skim can put them in the no pile. In the department where I got my PhD, it was also the case that almost every writing sample got read (I served on a hiring committee in grad school and saw it firsthand). I do not think the explanation is laziness, though I realize I'm generalizing from a case of two. I do not know what the explanation is. I suspect it is some combination of straightforward elitism/bias, quality of actual writing samples, and what kinds of topics and projects candidates' dissertations are on. (This last thing matters perhaps the most to me when I'm evaluating applications, and, in my limited experience, there is at least some minimal correlation between "standing out" in this way and being from a higher ranked department--though, of course, that could be more bias creeping into things--what I find interesting and exciting is going to be shaped in part by my own experience in the field.)


Also, this does not happen at my university (as far as I know), but I have heard that at some places there is pressure from the administration to hire people from higher-ranked departments (though often the administration does not actually know anything about what the actual higher-ranked departments are, so this pressure might just be about particular universities). But this is just secondhand info that could be totally wrong or exaggerated.


I think laziness is part of the explanation, but other things are more salient.

1. One wants their school to "look good". There is a sense of prestige that a university gets when they hire someone from Harvard or NYU. They get to advertise they got a Harvard hire, they get to tell people that 8/9 faculty are from top schools etc. It is far simpler and quicker to advertise that one's hire is from a top school than to explain what publications they have. And the administration can understand a highly ranked school with more ease. Lastly, if one's hire is not from a top school they might have to explain why 'they weren't able' to get a 'top' hire.

2. People who went to top schools often have an entrenched sense that prestige means something, and that people from prestigious schools are genuinely better than the rest. Moreover, people from elite schools often have to publish less, and a hiring committee with prestige and not a lot of publications I suspect has a hidden worry that hiring a young person with great publications will make them look bad.

3.People from top programs are often in awe of famous philosophers. Those candidates who come from top programs often have letters from famous philosophers. Those letters are taken very seriously, as is the fact that the candidate got to work side by side with this famous philosopher.

The above reasons, in that order, is what I think explains the tendency for research schools in the US to only hire candidates from top schools.

Marcus Arvan

anonymous: Thanks for chiming in!

You write: "I suspect it is some combination of straightforward elitism/bias, quality of actual writing samples, and what kinds of topics and projects candidates' dissertations are on. (This last thing matters perhaps the most to me when I'm evaluating applications, and, in my limited experience, there is at least some minimal correlation between "standing out" in this way and being from a higher ranked department--though, of course, that could be more bias creeping into things--what I find interesting and exciting is going to be shaped in part by my own experience in the field.)"

It's the last part here I worry about the most. It seems very plausible that a person's perceived prestige may bias readers regarding the quality of a piece of written work. This, among other things, is why journals utilize anonymized review. I would be very curious to see a study breaking search committee members into two groups: those who read writing samples totally anonymized (without knowing who wrote them), and others who read them in the standard way (knowing which candidate wrote which). I would be willing to bet there would be very significant differences between the two groups.

At any rate, these worries are reasons to think that writing samples should be anonymized. Insofar as prestige-bias in judging writing samples is plausible and possible, that suggests that anonymizing writing samples would be a good hiring-practice.

Marcus Arvan

Postdoc Quinns: I am not in a position to know which of the two may be a bigger difference-maker. Getting to know some idea of that would take, at a bare minimum, an empirical examination of my hypothesis and comparison to the ADPA report's effect-size for gender (and actually, strictly speaking, it would require knowing the causal influences of the ADPA's reported effect-sizes, which the report itself did not establish).

What I do know is that there are candidates of Tim's exact race and gender who get plenty of interviews and a permanent job. I am Tim's exact race and gender, and my last two years on the market I received 20 interviews, numerous fly-outs, and a job. Tim, as noted above, appears to have received 0 interviews in two years. I also have friends of Tim's exact race and gender who have received a good number of interviews and a job.

So, it seems there must be something more to the story than Tim's hypothesis.


You say there _must_ be something more than race-sex discrimination given that some white guys have jobs. But that doesn't follow, and isn't even particularly strong induction. Compare with this:
"Lots of black guys don't get harassed by cops. So there must be something more than race-sex discrimination that explains why Tyrone the black guy got harassed by cops."
Wouldn't that be a very weak inference? Thay said, I hope there's hope for Tim and other guys in his situation (and maybe there is).


Marcus: I agree that writing samples should be anonymized and read that way. I hope it was clear that I didn't mean my comment to be a defense of the way hiring has worked in places I've been in, but more just a response to JR that it seems like the problems (and I agree there are problems) are not obviously due to laziness.

I'm not convinced that anonymizing writing samples would help with the last part of things that I brought up above--I think if there is a bias problem there, it might be one that would still stick around.

Also, and this could be interpreted many different ways, one of my best friends works at an R1 where they anonymized writing samples in their last search and at least as he reported things to me, the long list that they produced that way was skewed pretty heavily towards "top" departments.


I believe your hypothesis is correct. It certainly fits my experience. My situation is slightly different -- I'm tenured at an R2, and I've been trying to move since before I got tenure. It seems pretty clear that I'm not going to "write my way up" the food chain, given my low pedigree. And SLACs give me a wide berth, which I have assumed is because they view me as too "research-oriented."

Practically speaking, Tim might benefit from removing publications from his CV when he applies to teaching schools.

Already Booked my Flight

Perceived "flight risk" bias has to to be one of the worst ones. But, everyone talks about it as if it's totally reasonable. Think about it. These departments are speculating about what would make someone choose to work at the same place - that they never experienced working at- for the rest of their adult life. In my experience this is what makes departments comfortable with asking illegal interview questions about marriage and children. And testing for "fit" in terms of best friendship and being able to join the poker nights.

And then job candidates are asked to conform to this weird nebulous "flight risk". Make sure that if you are not at a top Ph.D. program not to do too much good work! Make sure that your skirt isn't too short or you will get assaulted...too long and you won't get any dates! Make sure to take that 6-6 teaching job in the wastelands and work there until your dying days, becasue without it you will never find happiness or fulfillment!

Marcus Arvan

Serf: I don't think I am making any inductive error. And the analogy you give doesn't suggest that either. Even in the analogy, if there is a *difference* between Tyrone being harassed and another guy of his race not being harassed, there is something more going (some confound or other) that explains the difference. The confound in question could be *luck*, it could be that Tyrone *acts* differently than the other guy (playing into stereotypes), etc. But, if they are treated differently, there is some confound or other.

By a similar token, if one candidate of a given demographic gets 0 interviews but another 20, there is some causal confound to explain that above and beyond whatever discrimination there might be against members of their demographic type. This is pretty straightforwardly an inductively cogent argument. And I have argued abductively that the relevant confound is probably a bad job-market strategy given one's PhD program prestige.

Marcus Arvan

Anonymous: Thanks for the follow up. That's very interesting!

Marcus Arvan

Already Booked My Flight: I appreciate the general sentiment, but I don't think it is that simple.

For better or for worse (I agree it is more likely the latter), whether someone is a flight risk has real consequences from a hiring standpoint. I know of departments that really suffered from hiring flight risks. They fought for years (decades even) to get a new hire. Then the person hired left for another job, and the department *lost* the faculty line they had fought so long to get in the first place. That's a disaster for a department, and for better or for worse, departments have reasons to want to avoid it.

Further, I don't think it is too far of a stretch to say that there are in fact candidates who are genuine flight risks (especially since I've seen it happen). Is a candidate coming out of Harvard (or even a lower-ranked Leiter program) with publications in Phil Quarterly, Phil Studies, etc., going to want to stay at a teaching school in the middle of nowhere with a 4/4 teaching load? I guess it's possible...but how good are the odds?

Again, this isn't to say that I think screening for flight risks is a good thing. I am saying it is probably not nearly as arbitrary as discriminating against someone on the basis of their clothing choices.


Hi Marcus,
I agree, of course, that if A and B have different experiences despite sharing property F, there must be *something* about them that explains the difference in addition to F-ness. But consider what you're saying about my example: you're implying (I think?) that even if every black guy in America but one is being harassed by the cops, the mere fact that this one black guy is not would make it unreasonable to conclude "The explanation in some of those other cases is (probably) racism". But intuitively, this is absurd, no? I mean, if that thought were correctly generalized it would be impossible in principle to draw any reasonable conclusions about things like racial bias (or pretty much any other issue in social science) since there are always at least a few exceptions to any of the patterns we take as data.

I think you're almost agreeing with me when you say the confound could be "luck". For example, maybe some black guys don't get harassed because they happened not to be walking around at night when some of the most racist cops in their town were on duty. Lucky. But if we learn that that's the additional factor, the hypothesis of anti-black-male bias is just as plausible as before. Same goes if the additional factor is that, for example, some black guys 'act black' more than others... If that's why they get harassed, the bias hypothesis is just as plausible (or more plausible) as before. Thus merely pointing out that there must be some other factor is not a good reason for doubting the hypothesis (in my analogy or in Tim's case).

Likewise it might be that some white men get hired because of nepotism, or because they're spectacularly better than everyone else in the pool, or because they make it clear they approve of affirmative action, or because they just luckily happen to fit precisely the needs or prejudices of Dept X at time T... And if the explanation is anything like this, in most or all cases, or even if we just have no reason to doubt that it is, then there's no reason to doubt that lots of other white men are not getting hired because they are white men. Though, of course, the different outcomes aren't "explained" in some very strong sense--being white and male still won't be a sufficient condition all by itself for not being hired. But we almost never worry about "explanations" in that strong sense.

Sam Duncan

I'll add a few things to what Marcus said in the last post: First, the flight risk thing is a real worry, and any hiring committee that doesn't take it into a account is not doing its job properly. I noticed that a few of the teaching focused schools I interviewed at in my many years on the market hired applicants from Leiterrific schools and publications, and had the person leave for an R1 within a couple of years. (I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel more than a little bit of schadenfreude about that.) Second, even if the other person never gets a chance to actually leave you don't want to hire someone who will do the minimum on teaching while pouring effort into research or just be generally disengaged from his job duties while his eyes are on "greener" pastures. Finally, these sorts of considerations are hardly unique to academia. When we moved for my job my wife had a really hard time finding a job here because she fell in the gap of being too qualified for the entry level jobs but not quite competitive for upper level jobs in her field. What's ridiculous I think is the role pedigree plays in our field. I know of no other field besides academia where stories like S's could happen. After a few years on the job in any other field actual accomplishments in one's job become a lot more important than pedigree. That never seems to be the case in academia.


My sense, having taught at a state college, is that when an Ivy league PhD is hired at a low prestige place they are NOT flight risks. Where I taught, (not necessarily in my department) we had two Yale grads (an alcoholic and a super lack lustre), and two Brown grads (one who published shit for tenure, and then never again, and another who we picked up after he was denied tenure at an R1 and wanted to stay local). We would have loved for them to fly ... all of them.

Marcus Arvan

Serf: I don't think you are engaging with what I am saying. You write: "But if we learn that that's the additional factor, the hypothesis of anti-black-male bias is just as plausible as before."

My hypothesis does *not* deny the existence of bias, nor that bias may be a determining factor in some (or even many) cases. All the hypothesis claims is that even if there *is* bias, there must be some additional factor(s) to explain differential outcomes (as illustrated by the case of me, Tim, and others of the same demographic). That is all. It's still a cogent argument, and everything in both of your comments is consistent with the argument presented. You're just not construing the structure or conclusion of the argument properly.

Lucian attacking the market barefoot

I thought it was common (sense?) to have a file for research jobs where you show your best colors and a file for teaching jobs where you leave out publications except the very worse, play down how unique and brilliant you are, and pretend you like students and humanity in general. It's the first thing I did (when I went on the market like yesterday) assuming that I'm going to apply to community colleges and the like. I thought everybody does it. Anyway this is very informative keep it up tell everything. Someone make a guide a wiki something (those from the APA are a laugh). Reading these blogs -- not to be ungrateful -- helps but is exhausting. Thank you though Eric in particular.

Marcus Arvan

Lucian attacking the market barefoot: I would caution people against leaving things off their CV. It's deceptive, and I suspect it could open one to allegations of professional misconduct. (Maybe I'm wrong, but I would never do such a thing).


Hi Marcus,
No, I think I understand your reasoning, and I accept it: there must indeed be some additional factor. But I'm saying this is not really important, or possibly not relevant. If you're merely saying that there must be something--including luck, or some factor we haven't even imagined--then that's consistent with the following hypotheses: 1. the most important or even "determining" factor for Tim, and lots of other white guys, is the bare fact that they're white guys; and 2. there's probably nothing that people like Tim can do to overcome this handicap (since they don't control their own luck, or the quirks of some particular hiring committee, or where they went to school...)

I'm not saying that you deny the existence bias, or that it has some effects on who gets hired, etc.

Maybe I could make my point more clear by running a different argument: take whatever set of factors F you are proposing as some kind of "explanation" for why Tim and others aren't getting interviews; now since surely there must be lots of people who do get interviewed and hired despite the presence of F in those cases too, there must be something over and above F that "explains" the difference. We agree on this, right? So maybe the additional factor is this: Tim and others are white guys, and they aren't quite as lucky as some other white guys.

Lucian attacking the market barefoot

Oh thanks that's informative hadn't thought of that. I mean deception was the intent -- but I'm not familiar with getting sued yet and intend to keep it that way.

Marcus Arvan

Serf; fine, but I would say you are going beyond the evidence. The ADPA report indicates a significant gender disparity in hiring. It does not follow, even if all of the disparity were gender bias, that gender is the most important or determining factor. It all depends on the amount of hiring variance explained by that factor compared to other factors. The fact that one person with Tim’s race and gender gets zero interviews but another 20 of them suggests that a good deal of variance—perhaps even the most variance—is explained by some other factor(s): perhaps some luck, but perhaps job-market strategy, etc. Again, I am not saying Tim’s hypothesis (that his file gets *no* serious consideration due to his demographic) is false. I am denying we have sufficient evidence to think that it is true, given the variances that exist.


But Marcus the relevant evidence isn't just the reported variance. I mean, we're all aware that pretty much every institution is under very intense pressure to hire women and non-whites, and has been for a long time now--and that this pressure gets ever more intense, in part because many smaller or less cool places have a hard time finding "enough" faculty of the right kinds. And we know a lot of other things too that make it seem probable that a white man is at a massive disadvantage, unless he's got some very special other thing in his favor (like being trans or married to a faculty member or...)

I don't press this just to be a jerk. My main concern is for white guys now coming up--maybe it's too late for Tim, though I hope not. Basically we should be telling these guys DON'T DO IT. It's simply not worth the risks and costs. Anyone trying to get a decent career in philosophy is already taking a very very risky gamble, with very very poor odds. Not to be too dramatic, but once you take the plunge then _probably_ the whole rest of your life largely depends on this incredibly unlikely thing working out. And if you add to this already terrible choice a race-sex factor that _very probably_ makes your chances much worse than they already were... then it's just not worth it!

White guys: if you're in grad school now maybe there's still time to change course; if you're thinking of going you almost certainly shouldn't.

That said, I sincerely hope that your advice to Tim is helpful and will land him some interviews. You clearly know a lot about the market and the system, so maybe it will. Good luck to everyone (even the women :))

Lucian attacking the market

Oh that's good to know thanks handn't thought of that. I was exagerrating a bit -- I suppose it's a matter of degree between selling yourself in a certain way and getting deceptive, which presupposes an intention to cheat (when you intend to leave for the upper league, which is not what I was thinking.)

Marcus Arvan

Lucian: someone on facebook suggested one can do it non-deceptively by listing "selected publications" on your CV. I think that's probably the right way to go about it, though it would signal to readers that there are things one is leaving off the CV.


Yes, you effectively price yourself out of the market. Just one of the ways philosophy punishes productivity and actual accomplishment.


Serf why do you find it so hard to believe that a reason someone is not getting interviews, is that they are a flight risk? Could gender explain some of it, sure. But there are other things that can explain it, such as the hypothesis proposed here. Given that both of the above are possible explanatory reasons, one cannot know which factor (or if both) explains why 'Tim' didn't get any interviews. (Or at least that is the most modest way to put things.)

Helen De Cruz

This is a very interesting observation and one that seems to resonate with my experience of candidates that I've known. Although it is hard to say with the data we have whether there is specifically unlucky profile as you outline. I've got a paper forthcoming on prestige bias (in Ergo) where I put a lot of information together and I find the following observations
- people from higher-ranked schools tend to end up in higher-ranked departments
- but the PGR top-20 also furnishes lots of candidates to lower-ranked schools, including unranked schools. Unranked schools do not seem to consider these people, on the whole, a flight risk
- Philosophy actually comes out pretty good in this analysis. There are fields like English where you have virtually no chance landing a decent TT job if you're not from an elite school. Philosophy is more open to candidates from non-elite schools compared to some other fields.
I will write a post on the prestige paper once it appears in Ergo.

About flight risk: I am not sure in how far this is an American phenomenon. Here in the UK it is much more common to move, and people do it at all levels. For instance, the person I replaced at my institution moved to another non-elite university at the level of Full Professor, and he is not an exception. In the UK there is no tenure (although people will normally not fire you) and people are more mobile. This system is more like other jobs, and I personally prefer it.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Helen: Thanks for chiming in - I look forward to reading your paper! Quick question: does your Ergo paper/analysis distinguish between different types of "unranked" schools?

Here's why I ask. It would not surprise me in the slightest if PGR top-20 programs placed a good number of people in R1's and R2's not ranked in the Leiter report. It would also not surprise me if these "unranked" schools did not worry so much about flight risks--as R1's and R2's in general are just looking to get the best researchers they can.

What would surprise me is if the data found that Leiter top-10 programs placed a lot of candidates at typical teaching-focused small liberal arts colleges. My sense, having worked at one and interviewed at many, is that the faculty at these schools typically do not come from Harvard, Princeton, Rutgers--and that they do care a great deal about avoiding flight risks.


Interesting Helen, I really do want to read this paper. My initial reaction to some of what you said is similar to Marcus. I would assume many people from top schools end up at non-ranked Phd programs or programs with a masters in philosophy but no Phd. Those are still considered fairly prestigious research schools, by most accounts. On the other hand, if the school is not an elite liberal arts college, I would be surprised if many people from top schools got jobs at teaching schools. And I mean teaching schools to be non-elite liberal arts colleges, public institutions without grad programs in philosophy, etc.


If your formal record is excellent (great evals and publications), but you're a white man who's not from a top school (though not a completely unknown school either), then your best shot is probably in Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, China).

Actually, no matter who you are, if you have a great formal record, then your best shot is in Asia.


"Tim" thinks it plausible that his race and gender are the primary explanation why he did not get any interviews this year, despite having a strong CV. The fact that he thinks this a plausible hypothesis says a lot about him. It suggests other, more likely explanations for his job market struggles.

Non-Leiteriffic Prof

This is all sort of ridiculous.

If you've been on a hiring committee (as I have almost every year for the past 10 years) then you've talked about how the department needs to hire women and/or people color.

In fact, it happened at the department vote my department took just the other day. Pretty much these words were said: "It would look bad if we hired two white men this year."

We agreed that the female candidate would be superior because she is female. This didn't settle the question of whom to hire, but it was on the table.

So, how about we all stop tying ourselves in knots trying to deny this? Let's be honest:

We hire people based on gender and race all the time and we do for good reason.

Own it.

Logic Master

Notice that this whole "hypothesis" is internally inconsistent. Claim one: You can't publish your way to a research job if you are from a low ranked school. Claim two: Teaching jobs wont like a good publishing record from someone from a low ranked school.
Claim three: people from low ranked schools who have a good publishing records DO fly away for a better research job.

If claim one was true, claim three would not be possible. I think if we are really advising people from low ranked schools that you shouldn't do the best work that you can and that you can't move up in philosophy based on your work, then this whole discipline is bankrupt.

Already Booked my Flight

I stand by my previous comment that "flight risk" bias is one of the worst ones.
1) There is nothing wrong with someone looking for a different job they think will give them more fulfillment or that is in a nicer location or whatever.
2) Looking for another job while doing a job does not mean that you are not doing your job well in the meantime.
3) Job candidates do not owe a job their life when they sign on the dotted line. Departments shouldn't be demanding that people spend the rest of their adult working lives at the same place they never worked at before. It is 2018.
4) Just because departments have a "real worry" about a flight risk, doesn't mean that they should actively try to guess who would spend the rest of their life there. I am sure some departments for similar reasons have a "real worry" about a married woman who does not have children yet... she sure will take a lot of maternity leave! Maybe she won't want to come back after she realizes that women are happier in the home!
5) People are less of a "flight risk" if they are best friends with the people in the department. So departments feel justified in picking the person they would want to grab a beer with.

Look, I don't deny the reality that at some smalls schools the university administration is a nightmare. But, my impression is that this "flight risk" phenomena stretches far beyond schools that would lose a TT line because someone left. People are actively giving others advice NOT to try to do the best work they can becasue otherwise they are a "flight risk." It is an active way to keep people in their station and not to let too many of these low-ranked Ph.D.'s send papers to top journals clogging response time and treading on the turf that is reserved for the elite. Academia at its finest.

Helen De Cruz

Hi Marcus, I did not make a distinction between different kinds of unranked schools - can send you the xls file if you think this would be helpful - or you can request it from the Placement Programme (perhaps download it) here http://placementdata.com/data/


Any thoughts about similar issues w.r.t. at least some parts of the EU job market, which is probably more diverse in some respects (i.e. country-wise) but more homogenous in others (European grants, job-market within the same country)?

Marcus Arvan

Logic Master: I don’t think the hypothesis is internally inconsistent, and for two reasons.

First, the argument doesn’t hold that people from lower-ranked programs can *never* publish their way into an R1 job. The hypothesis allows that it can happen on occasion. It just holds that it is not the norm, but an exception—and so, if the hypothesis is true, trying to do so is to place a bad “bet.” Again, not a bet that can never be won, but a bet one is unlikely to win. (Note: this sits well with Helen’s evidence. There are some lower-Leiter ranked people hired by top programs, just not very many).

Second, the argument doesn’t hold that people fly away from teaching jobs to research jobs often. For all the argument holds, it happens fairly rarely. But that is irrelevant. The relevant thing is whether search committees at teaching schools worry about it. And my experience is that they very much do. Why? For two reasons (1): flight to other jobs sometimes happens (not a lot, let’s say, but it does happen), and (2) when it does happen, it can be a disaster for the department that loses the person. Thus, even if flight is relatively rare, hiring departments at teaching schools plausibly have a tendency to engage in a strategy of “disaster avoidance”: avoiding flight risks on the mere *chance* the person could fly off to elsewhere. (Note: this too fits with my experience. No one knows how common flight is, but for all that people do worry about it).

Anyway, I’d just like to note that nowhere did I suggest not doing the best work one can. I do the best work I can, and think people should do the best work they can. The point was simply that publishing in top-ranked *journals* might not be the best job-market strategy for people coming out of some programs. If so, what of it? Why must one publish one’s best work in a top-ranked journal? Why must one get a job in a research institution? The presumptions that one should strikes me as sharing some of the same elitism as the apparent favoring of candidates on the basis of grad program prestige. How about instead of ranking everything and judging people, publications, and jobs on their rank, we just focus on doing our best work, getting jobs, and challenging elitism across the board?

Marcus Arvan

Already Booked My Flight: “It is an active way to keep people in their station and not to let too many of these low-ranked Ph.D.'s send papers to top journals clogging response time and treading on the turf that is reserved for the elite. Academia at its finest.”

I get your worry here. I don’t want to deter people from challenging their “station.” But what I do want to do is help people like Tim get interviews and jobs, so that they don’t just spend ten years in grad school and the market only to publish in top journals and then leave the profession because they can’t get a job anywhere (note: I personally know people who fall into this group). Perhaps there’s a better way to challenge one’s station: namely, use the best strategy one can to get a job, and then try to publish one’s way up the hierarchy (though, again, I'm no fan of prestige hierarchies).

Anyway, just a thought. I get your worry. It’s a serious one. But we should not make the perfect the enemy of the good. As it stands, people like Tim are publishing in top-journals and not getting interviews or jobs. That, I think, is the greater tragedy.

Message from Europe

I can say a bit about the European market, as I work in it. Countries differ significantly. Where I am there is some pressure to get grants, but the grant climate is better for philosophy types in Europe. You also do not buy yourself out of teaching in Europe as you do in the USA with a grant. For permanent positions (the equivalent of a TT position in the USA), applicants are almost wholly judged on research records: publications, in good places, that are cited. The assumption for a permanent position where I am, is that the person has already done 3-6 years as a post-doc (supported by other people's grants elsewhere). But as soon as you are hired you are essentially tenured. Teaching evidence, even letters counts for almost nothing.


Non-Leiteriffic Prof: your post makes little sense.

In Marcus's post, he never denies there is a gender bias in hiring. Indeed, he explicitly accepts it. So no one is trying to deny it. Simply because some schools hire for diversity reasons doesn't mean there is no other relevant factor explaining why people do not get interviews. I mean really, think how silly that is: because there is one possible reason some people do not get interviews, therefore there can be no other reason. Come on, that is nonsense.

As for the flight risk supposed contradiction, Marcus explained it well. But in addition to schools being concerned because of the low chance of flight risk, there are other explanations. One is that a school simply doesn't want someone who is so focused on elite publications, because that does not fit well with the environment of the department. Another worry is the person would not be happy with a high teaching load and really only doing research during breaks. No one wants an unhappy colleague. Moreover hiring committee members may be out of touch with what goes on at top departments, and not know how hard it is for someone to publish their way up.

One thing I think job candidates often seem to believe, but in my opinion should not, is that there is some type of duty on hiring committees to be as "fair" as possible to the candidates and hire the most "deserving" person. While I would have supported this as a candidate, this is not how it works. The hiring committee hires who is best for their department, not who is most deserving. We really should not expect them to do otherwise. Job hiring is not a merit award. It is to serve the needs of the department. (Now I absolutely agree departments do silly things, and make choices that do not serve their needs, such as caring so much about prestige.)

I want to mention one small market that does not fit into this scheme: elite liberal arts colleges. These colleges usually have a 2-2 teaching loads and research privileges similar to R1's. However they also care very much about teaching. In my experience, elite liberal arts colleges are the most open type of hiring institution. They will accept people from low ranked schools with great publications, or they might hire someone from a Leiter top 10. Sadly, alas, there are very few of these schools .


I want to echo some comments above: If you're publishing in good places and having trouble finding a job, forget about North America and the UK and start looking more closely at Asia, Europe, and South America. Good pubs are rewarded in these places. Perhaps you should also take a look elsewhere, too, but I can't speak to those parts of the world.

About elite liberal arts colleges

I do not think the elite liberal arts colleges are open. Places like Williams College and Swarthemore tend to hire from the elite universities, ivies and such. They do so because they often want connections at those places, which will help place their students in graduate programs if they decide to go that route. Check out the faculty lists ... they seldom dip below Northwestern.

Marcus Arvan

Amanda: I think 'About elite liberal arts colleges' is correct. I too have gotten the sense that elite SLACs tend to hire primarily from top-ranking programs.

Helen De Cruz

Amanda, that resonates with the research I did about prestige in philosophy and also with the theoretical explanations about why people from high-prestige schools can get placed everywhere, whereas upward social mobility is virtually non-existent: people hope to buy social capital (connections to people in fancy places) in exchange for economic capital (a job for a philosopher from those places). You can find my paper on Academia.edu. If you don't have academia.edu shoot me an email and I will send it to you.


I think there is something troubling about Marcus' post that people are latching on to, but which they are perhaps overstating. With a case like this, we have a person whose life and job prospects are being slowly destroyed. He floats a hypothesis for this, perhaps an unnecessarily strong one, but a hypothesis that is absolutely consistent with everything we are seeing on the market (look for yourself, departments are posting flyout schedules and every one I've seen is 70-100% female and/or POC).

Yet, in the face of this obvious reality, our first instinct is to try to discover *another hypothesis*. Why? Why not accept this person's testimony, respect the tenability of their basic idea, and discuss it? Isn't this precisely what we are supposed to do in analogous cases involve non-white-males?

Moreover, even *if* Marcus has part of the explanation right, the real question is: suppose Tim hadn't come to display these allegedly problematic features (suppose he PhDed at a top-20 school). Would he be able to overcome hiring bias? If the answer is still "no", then Tim has been the victim of a huge, exploitative lie.

This is a real possibility. Let's talk about it. Let's not use 12 paragraphs to deflect attention away from what is almost certainly a real problem.


An honest question: is there any research of any sort suggesting any of the things we do to screen out 'flight risks' is effective?


Another oddity this brings up, which is highlighted by anonymous 2/2 8:40am's comments is the extraordinary amount of value some committees still put on the dissertation. Not sure about you all, but three years out from my PhD I've totally moved on from the dissertation. I've published everything out of it that I'm likely to and now I'm on to new stuff. So when committees ask for dissertation stuff of any sort I pretty much wanna just throw out the application and move on.

The dissertation obsession strikes me as something of a hangover from when everyone got hired their first time on the market. Committees still operating on that assumption (or practices derived from that assumption) naturally think people like me look weird.


Well I guess it might depend on how elite? I know of two elite slacs, at least in the sense they have a 2-2 teaching load and take research seriously, and only 1/2 of their hires are from elite schools. I know of at least two people from non-ranked schools with amazing publication records. But these are only two places I know. And the acceptance rate is around 25% so perhaps not as elite as Swarthemore, which is the best of the best. But I haven't done anything like a comprehensive examination of this so maybe I'm off base.

And Helen I do have academia.edu so I'll check it out!


@Tom: I'm the anonymous in question. I shouldn't have used the word 'dissertation', though, very often, we are looking at people who are just finishing or have very recently finished grad school. The point is just that it does seem, from a hiring perspective of someone at an R1, that what kinds of projects/research agendas candidates are working on, or have worked on, vary according to what department they got their PhD in. This extends to people who have been out of grad school for a few years plus. We care just as much if not more about future research plans as past research, but I just meant for that all to be subsumed under the sloppy word choice.


The data do not support the hypothesis "Tim" floats.

The latest APA report by Jennings et al. says that among the set of recent Ph.D.s the APA studied, women were 1.665 times as likely as men to get a permanent academic placement. That is significant, and it is reasonable to debate whether it is fair. But it is much too small an effect to explain why a candidate with a strong CV is getting no interviews. Nor is gender plus race likely to be an adequate explanation. Almost certainly, something else is going on.


White men are at a disadvantage. That is an undeniable fact. No point arguing. The empirical data support it and so does everything we know about our culture and about university culture. However, there are other factors too. Who you know. What you work on. And who knows what. I left the discipline being unable to attain a good job despite a strong record. Got tired of trying to figure it out. At the end of the day maybe it’s just that there aren’t any freaking jobs? Don’t take it personally. Or figure out some way to move on. It’s hard. But it’s worth it. My life is much better now.


The discussion of flight risk in this thread seems disproportionate to how much any real committee takes that into account. For one thing, where are all the T20 grads complaining that their pedigree is keeping them from landing teaching jobs? Wouldn’t most teaching institutions, if flight risk were a major worry, shy away from hiring fancy folks from Ivy League schools? I don’t think this is happening very often. Besides, we are all aware of how terrible the job market is. Why not assume that an applicant is applying in good faith, when in all likelihood he indeed would be over the moon to work for that institution? The idea that an applicant from a lower ranked school has in fact sealed his fate by publishing in top journals is so deeply ironic and troubling that I’m glad it’s being discussed. But among the hypotheses that seek to explain why lower ranked grads (and especially white males) with strong publication records still struggle, flight risk doesn’t seem to be the best option.

Marcus Arvan

Calvin: having worked at a liberal arts university, served on search committees, and having been screened as a “flight risk” in jobs that I interviewed for (in some cases, people interviewing me—including deans—explicitly asking me whether I would actually stay if hired), my overall experience is that people at smaller teaching schools do care about avoiding flight risks. Perhaps my experience is atypical, but I doubt it.

Anyway, I think Amanda is right that there are probably related but distinct causes why candidates with a high Leiter rank or lower Leiter-rank but stellar research profile may be screened out at teaching schools. One reason, as Amanda notes, is that those doing the hiring may worry whether the person would be happy in the job. Another possible cause, which Amanda did not note but I think is possible given human nature, is that some people may avoid hiring people whose CV is much better than their own. Suppose you’re a Big Fish in a small pond. Will you want to hire a Bigger Fish than you—someone whose research record is far better than your own? I realize this is a terribly cynical possibility, and would like to believe that nothing like it would be explicitly or implicitly operative in the way people make decisions about who to interview or hire. But let’s face it. We know our fellow human beings can have egos and seek to protect them. We are often not even aware of the ways that we try to do so. So, is it possible that something like that could also be at play here? Hard to say, but at the same time I’m not sure it should be ruled out (along with the other hypotheses discussed here).


Hi Marcus,

I completely agree with your "cynical possibility". And I did note it above when I said faculty members might be worried that someone with great publications will make them look bad. I have hung around search committees at teaching schools and personally I am certain jealousy plays a role, as sad as that may be. But philosophers, alas, are human.

I also find it interesting that so many people seem to want to insist that gender is the ONLY reason people with great records are not getting hired. They also insist this discussion is somehow an attempt to deny the gender affect in hiring when almost everyone agreeing with this hypothesis has admitted the gender affect. I don't know what to make of that, other than to think people desperately want to explain the job market in terms of unfairness rather than any other possibility. I know it sucks to be judged by one's gender or race, which is why I am against these affirmative action measures. But idk, human psychology always fascinates me.

Round two

I'm personally much more angry about prestige bias than I am about gender/race-based affirmative action. I agree with the goals of AA: it would be great if philosophy were more diverse - right now, it's just embarrassing. It would be nice if efforts for diversification happened earlier in the philosophy pipeline, such as the undergrad major level (which is where the gender gap actually happens, right?), instead of the job market (where it has real costs). Prestige bias, on the other hand, is totally indefensible. It's not like people from elite universities are an underrepresented or oppressed group who need a leg up.


Good point, round two. While there is at least an ethical theory behind gender biased hiring, not so much with prestige bias.


I'm aware from first-hand experience of how awful the job market experience is. But, the market is incredibly fluke-y, so unfortunately, two rounds aren't enough to tell something's going wrong. It might be bad luck.

Also, I'm not in the least suggesting this of Tim, who may just be having bad luck. but at least some of the people who look amazing on on paper have very difficult personalities. Frankly, there are some real a**holes in our discipline, and some of them seem shocked when they can't get employment.

Being a professor requires working with students, with peers, on committees, organizing colloquia. All kinds of social and organizational work. It takes some amount of social and emotional intelligence (which is not at all the same as being extraverted). With the deluge of candidates to choose from, departments now have the luxury of ruling out a**holes.


Several people have now floated the assole hypothesis. It's not inherently unreasonable as a story about why people don't get *jobs*. But it's not terribly plausible as a story about why people aren't getting *first round interviews*. Unless the level of assholery is such that it comes across in their documents. But that seems, while not impossible, at least unlikely.


The ass hole hypothesis is interesting. It might more honestly and correctly just be called cronyism. Saying so and so hasn’t gotten a job because they are hard to get a long with may just be an excuse for hiring your friends.


I think it is easy for an a-hole to give themselves away in the cover letter. At least I suspect it happens on occasion. I would also think research schools are more likely hire a-holes, although sometimes it might even turn them off. Of course, research schools have historically been fine with sexual harasses on occasion so...

Marcus Arvan

Hi Amanda: You raise a good point. Can someone come across poorly in a cover letter? Absolutely. Not only that: one can come across poorly in their other materials well. How? In the same kinds of ways one can come off poorly in person: seeming arrogant, etc.


Hi Marcus: I haven't read all that many cover letters or job materials besides my own, since I haven't been on a search committee. But it doesn't surprise me as I have read some personal websites where people must be unaware that they come off as painfuly arrogant.


There are so many ways for one to come across as an asshole in one's materials (and even one's online persona). Don't forget LORs. If you're an asshole, my guess is your references may, whether consciously or not, reflect this in how and what they write about you. There are a few oft-cited cases of genius top-ranked philosophy PhDs who can't manage to get a job. Anyone who's familiar with such cases knows their letters contain red flags.

Amanda is totally right that hiring is not all about fairness. I do think it should be about fairness to some extent or in some respects at least (departments have responsibilities beyond their own self-interest). What's for sure, however, is that hiring genius assholes is not one of them.

Post Doc

To schools reading this: I know people from top 25 programs with 5+ good pubs who don't get first rounds and would love to teach at your place for 5-10 years. The "flight risk" talk is a relic from a different time. Ride the buyer's market; you won't believe the folks you'll be able to pull right now on the cheap and if too many people walk you won't have it this good later.

Marcus Arvan

Post Doc: I can't speak for my colleagues at other universities. However, I would be very surprised if people at smaller teaching institutions would want to hire a candidate likely to stay at their institution for only 5-10 years. Let me explain.

Here's how I've heard it often works at smaller teaching schools. A department fights for many years (even decades) to get a new TT line. When they get that line, they want to hire someone who is likely to get tenure and stay in the job for *20-30* years (i.e. the rest of their career). Why? For one thing, if the person they hire bolts for another institution after 5 years, they may lose the TT line altogether. The upper administration might decide (perhaps due to changing enrollments or financial reasons) that the department really doesn't need that line, and that the money for that line could be better spent hiring someone in another department.

I've heard this happening to departments--and from their perspective, it's a disaster. Why fight for a TT line just to lose it 5 years later? Consequently, hiring someone likely to stay for only 5-10 years may not seem like a very good thing at all from the hiring side.

Post Doc

Marcus: Thanks that's helpful insight into a thought process that I have little insight into! A question, and a thought. The question: Is there any way to reliably predict who might stay for *20-30* years? It seems like there is no real way to gauge that other than probing hard for criteria (e.g., the person has family there, etc.) that probably shouldn't be used by SCs in the first place. Someone with 1 publication out of grad school, but shows enough promise to be hired and wants to live elsewhere may surely bolt after some time. And, if your institution is desirable enough that people would "go career" there anyway, why think someone with a good pedigree, multiple pubs, etc. wouldn't stick around? The comment: I still think the "buyer's market" insight is important. For a SC, betting that someone will stick around for 10+ years, or be a lifer is always a gamble. There has never been a better time to reach a bit and have a safer gamble.

Marcus Arvan

Hi Post Doc: There are always risks in hiring, but for all that I think there may be ways to determine with some reliability whether a person is likely to stick around for 20-30 years.

Consider someone like myself: I had quite a lot of lower-ranked journal publications when I went on the market, and no highly-ranked ones. Provided a person like this does the job well after being hired, they seem like a good bet to both get tenure and not leave for 20-30 years. On the one hand, they are a good bet to get tenure because they have an extended publishing record, which most teaching schools care at least somewhat about. On the other hand, they are a good bet not to leave because they don't have the kinds of high-ranking publications that would make it easy to "move up in the world."

And, for what it is worth, this seems at least anecdotally to me to be the general profile of people who do well on the market with teaching schools.

Post Doc

Marcus: Thanks for your thoughtful replies- that's helpful. As a graduate student, I was not aware of the "tale of two job markets" that has been emerging in the blogopshere lately (a story this thread seems to support anecdotally. I'm glad current grad students are more aware of this. The frustrating part (I do a lot of mentoring) is it is hard to know what to do with a situation like Tim's. If you are already in that position, it might be hard/impossible to course correct. On the other hand, it would be hard for grad students in many situations to know what an optimal strategy to pursue would be, since too many high ranked pubs could hurt for some places, but not just be enough for others.

Post's Friend

Marcus, I am with post-doc. you cannot tell who will leave after 5 to 10 years. I have seen people leave after one year, and I have seen them leave after 15. I have also seen people who clearly are trying to leave and never leave ... they are not as desirable as they think they are (and as their mothers say they are). There is no predicting such stuff.

Marcus Arvan

Post's Friend: Fair enough. I shouldn't have said the method is reliable. Still, for all that, the more relevant practical question for candidates is whether people on search committees can *think* they can predict these things, and whether that influences their decisions. My experience is that this is indeed sometimes the case.

Marcus Arvan

Post Doc: Very good points. Tim asked me privately if I could put up a post on those exact issues. I hope to do so in the next day or two. My hope is that further discussion of these issues might help Tim and those not yet in his kind of position (i.e. grad students earlier on in their careers before the market).


"We hire people based on gender and race all the time and we do for good reason."

I wonder what the good reason is? More precisely: what's the reason that we all understand to be good _enough_ to outweigh the intrinsic injustice of deliberately systematically discriminating against other (less "privileged") people "based on gender and race", and also the potential cost to the discipline of many otherwise excellent people being shut out on that basis? Now there is, on the other hand, a "good reason" why universities don't _admit_ to discrimination against white men. And it's a good reason why they shouldn't admit it _if_ such discrimination is worth doing in the first place. They'd then have to publicly defend practices that the public really doesn't like and doesn't want to fund. (The reason would then have to be good enough by _their_ lights. And good luck with that.) And lots of white men, who make up a very big chunk of philosophy majors and grad students, as well as taxpayers and voters, would almost certainly start channeling their votes and tuition money and scholarships elsewhere. To do it right, you have to have just enough plausible deniability to keep all those white men and other potentially hostile people paying for the system, buying into it, working within it... So any "good reason" for these practices will also have to be good enough to outweigh the deception necessary as a means to that end.

I think the reason is nothing more than social and institutional inertia, conformity, laziness. That's just how things have been for a long time. It seems reasonable because that's how things are. And so these (rationally) bizarre and largely unexamined notions like "representation" or the supposedly massive intellectual value of having women and non-whites in philosophy are just lazily thrown around, easy rationalizations for something no one seriously thinks about.

For example, it would be _very_ hard to make the case that (A) there is any detectable significant philosophical or pedagogical benefit from the mere presence of women and non-whites in a classroom--let alone (B) one that couldn't be had without discrimination against white men, let alone (C) one that couldn't be had by means of discrimination against women and non-whites and in favor of white men "diverse" in other respects, let alone (D) one that is great enough to outweigh the injustice (and deception)...

But if the "value of diversity" thing really is a "good reason" for such policies then at least all of A-D probably need to be established. Or it needs to be established that, surprisingly, not all of A-D need be established.

No one has ever even tried to make either kind of case, as far as I know. But people just casually toss out "the value of diversity" as a reason for AA. And the same goes for every other casually tossed-around "good reason" I've heard.

And more often, it seems, philosophers appear to think _no_ reason is needed. The proposition that we don't have "enough" women and non-whites is treated as if it were self-evident. Maybe this is rooted in the (bizarre) assumption that, if the world was fair, you'd find exactly equal proportions of people doing every kind of work? (Or every kind of high-status, comfortable work at least--no one is worrying about the "under-representation" of women in the garbage collection industry.) But then why does anyone assume that? Well, no real reason it seems. It's just what everyone knows, how things are set up, what the Human Resources people believe... I guess?

Unfortunately philosophers rarely subject institutionally sanctioned beliefs with real-life consequences to the rigors of deep rational examination. (Too busy sweating over the semantics for "This is tasty" or whatnot.)

Transatlantic PhD Student

There seems to be an anecdotal consensus on this site that white men, especially those from lower-ranked PhD programs, have a serious disadvantage on the US job market and probably other job markets as well, and that this is in some sense unfair in a bad way.

I think that I see at least two ways in which this might be unfair in an important or troubling way. The first is less convincing, the second more-so. Fwiw, I am a white dude doing a PhD in Philosophy, and I am not quite sure how my school ranks because of a number of different idiosyncrasies (suffice it to say it's not a top-top school placement-wise).

1. It is unfair because it denies philosophy jobs to qualified white men without any good reason for doing so.

I'm not convinced that this is really a deep or troubling unfairness. Our lots in life are always going to be subject to the political and cultural winds blowing at any given moment. You could be the best musician in the world, but if your style or instrument isn't popular, then you don't have a right to play at Madison Square Garden. Twenty years later, you could be older, working as a music teacher in a high school, watching your style become very popular and thinking of what might have been had you been born twenty years later. Same for a great athlete who is injured in a fluke accident.

I wouldn't say that this is deeply unfair. Rather it's just the way it goes sometimes. Right now, we are in a moment where universities want to elevate female and non-white people to positions of esteem. That surely disadvantages some, but those are just the breaks.

It *is* unjust if unchosen characteristics entail that one is cut off from some coarse-grained determinant of the good life, like having a job at all, or being equal before the law, or having the right to vote, or medical care, or shelter. But a job in philosophy is just way too fine-grained a good to be subject to these kinds of considerations. No one has the right to a philosophy job.

Now of course, the same cannot be said of disadvantaging non-whites or women in the job market. To do this would be deeply unjust. And this is because doing so would fit into a pattern of historical disrespect and injustice towards non-whites and women. That's what's just different, contingently, about disadvantaging white men in a job market and disadvantaging non-white or non-male people in a job market; the former does not fit into an awful history of structural disadvantage, while the latter does.

Finally, it's worth noting that white men who leave philosophy will usually face less hurdles than non-whites or non-male people in setting up decent professional lives outside of philosophy, ceteris paribus. Personally, I know that I am lucky (though unjustly so!) because if I have to leave philosophy and start over career-wise, I am much less likely to have to overcome structural disadvantages in order to do so than many of my peers.

There are difficult questions of intersectionality here, of course. To take a stock example, one could argue that a white man from a working class background would be subject to more structural disadvantage than a black woman from a very affluent upbringing. These are notoriously thorny issues. In general, I think the profession should account for class background much more in affirmative action policies, but this is much more challenging for a lot of reasons. Thus, the ceteris paribus clause above.

2. It is unfair because this reality of the job market is not made clear to prospective students.

It seems pretty cut and dry that there is a kind of unfairness here that is quite bad because it suggests that students are recruited to graduate school in philosophy on a false promise. Graduate schools should be more open with their students about the prospects for a job in philosophy for graduates of that school, and this should include honesty about how one's demographic status affects job prospects. One would think that if this continues to be a robust trend, then lower-ranked schools will admit less and less white men, in order to improve their placement records. This might be a good development on a number of fronts.

White Guy

Would it be possible to put up a new thread next to the job market discussion threads and the rest? This new thread could be dedicated to the insistence that there are gender effects in hiring and that those gender effects are super important. That way, other threads could happen without being swamped by those claims.

(This is a little bit snarky, but that not every populated thread has to be a Poor White Dudes thread.)


All of these stories of male white disadvantage are primarily anecdotal, but if we're swapping stories about who gets flyouts and offers, let me just say this: my grad program hired a lot. For my entire time there, we only had one or two female faculty members, so it's not like our department was already swimming in women. Except for the year we hired in ethics, we always brought out more male candidates than female, and of our first offers to candidates, more were to male candidates than female (by a ratio that reflected the balance of gender in the people that we brought out). I don't know that it's as easy to tell who the other job candidates are for flyouts while they're going on (unless you're close friends with another candidate who got the same flyout), but I do know for one flyout I have this year that (in spite of the department losing their only female faculty member), the campus visitor list is less than half female. I mention this simply because all of this speaks against the premise that flyout lists are somehow mostly female. What I have noticed is the prestige bias, at least at R1s and fancy SLACs--e.g., the year that my PhD program hired in M&E, we brought out four candidates from the same three Northeast schools that I'm sure anyone here could guess. This isn't to say that those candidates were not good; they were all great, but I'm sure they weren't the only great candidates on the market that year.


Yeah I guess we all have different anecdotes to draw on, but I in my experience the all female flyouts thing is not actually happening. As I said of my four flyouts last year at least two of them white men were hired instead of me. During grad school (at my grad institution) we hired 5 people, 4 white males. The one woman hire was indeed because the dean said if we wanted two hires that year one had to be a woman. Our department is still only 10% women.


By the way the one woman we did hire was insanely accomplished. She had more, and more impressive, publications than 3 out of the 4 men we hired.


You write:

"white men who leave philosophy will usually face less hurdles than non-whites or non-male people in setting up decent professional lives outside of philosophy, ceteris paribus."

And that you're "much less likely to have to overcome structural disadvantages in order to do so than many of my peers."

I don't know why you think this. White men are the only group in western societies against which explicit systemic discrimination at all levels of training, education and hiring is legal (and often mandated by policy). That's the situation not only in academic philosophy but in government, in the corporate world. Pretty much everywhere. This is, of course, a set of very significant "structural disadvantages". And a corresponding set of structural _advantages_ for everyone else.

Why then would we think that when the System as a whole is explicitly set up so as to impose structural disadvantages on group A, and to create structural advantages for group B, members of A are "much less likely" to have to overcome such disadvantages than members or B? I just don't understand. And this is not even to introduce your reasonable point about purely economic disadvantages that will affect _many_ white men.

I'm also puzzled by the regularity with which people bring up the "anecdotal" dimension in all this. The main reason for believing that white men are going to have a harder time than other people on the job market is not _anecdotes_ but just the indisputable fact that pretty much all employers, and especially universities, make it quite clear and explicit that women and non-whites are strongly preferred. Everyone knows, surely, that the meaning of "diversity" and "affirmative action" and "equity" in practice is simple "fewer white men". Even if there were no anecdotal evidence you'd have to be crazy to doubt that society-wide discrimination of this kind had no uniquely bad effects on the people being explicitly targeted for discrimination.

"White guy" -- I won't post anything further here. Sorry to have hijacked the thread.

A closing thought: It's interesting that no one will _ever_ take up the challenge of presenting the supposedly "good reasons" for discriminating against white men. Lots of people seem to have the time and energy for replying to objections to these policies, or for ridiculing the Poor White Guys so selfish or silly as to care that their life prospects are being systemically diminished for seemingly absurd reasons (like "diversity is crucial to everyone's education"). But no one ever seems to want to explain what the "good reasons" for this kind of discrimination actually ARE. Sometimes people will say THAT there are, of course, Very Good Reasons, as someone did above. But when you ask them what they ARE, giving some indication of the argumentative burden involved here, there's always just silence, or changing the subject, or smug insults. Very interesting thing to note! Philosophers might want to really about that at some point.

Okay, I'm all done now. By everyone, and best of luck on the job market.

TT lady

Serf, I gave some reasons for AA in hiring, or "discriminating against white men" on the job market discussion thread, regarding making one's department a more comfortable place for minorities and women. These reasons are typically balanced with other relevant considerations regarding candidates. Whether they should be in play at all is a matter of debate, but it's important to keep in mind that hiring someone is not an exercise in justice—it's not about granting the reward of a job to the most deserving person, so much as deciding who would be best for the department.

I take it that you do not believe that making departments more attractive and comfortable for female students is a worthy goal, due to your views on interaction between men and women. I'm not interested in arguing about those views, and this wouldn't be the appropriate forum to do so. But it's not the case that no one has given reasons, it's just that no one has given reasons that you find satisfactory, given your idiosyncratic views about the impossibility of studying while women are around.


TT... If you read what I said earlier, I am claiming that a "good reason" would have to at least explicitly meet conditions A-D or, if not, meet the condition of adequately explaining why A-D aren't conditions on a "good reason". This constraint is plausible apart from any idiosyncratic views of mine. (Though no, I don't doubt that women feeling comfortable is "a worthy goal", but only that such things are worth the blighted lives of many men.)

So just saying "There's some evidence it might make people more comfortable" plus "This is being balanced against other considerations (nature of those and nature of the balancing unspecified)" is not what I meant by "good reason".

Okay, really done now. Best of luck everyone.

TT lady

Serf, Your conditions A-D are based on certain assumptions that I (and, I think, other interlocutors of good will) reject. Note that I never claimed that diversity is good in itself, or named that as a good reason. For instance, it's not the case that I think alienating female and minority students is bad because their presence in the classroom would provide philosophical or pedagogical benefit. It is bad simpliciter, for those alienated students. It may also be bad for more practical considerations: departments/programs depend for their survival on majors. Women and minorities comprise an increasing percentage of the student body at most universities. If hiring women and minorities as faculty makes those students more comfortable as majors and in the classroom, departments stand to benefit from hiring women and minorities. I therefore do not see the need to meet your condition A, since such reasons are not based upon the philosophical or pedagogical benefit of diversity among students in the classroom. Briefly, I think your conditions B-D are based on a misconception about what justice requires in these situations.

I'm in the odd position of defending a view that I'm not sure that I hold. Nevertheless, these are what I take to be the "good reasons" that people do think bringing race, gender, and other similar considerations to bear on hiring decisions is permissible, or perhaps (all things considered) preferable on ethical grounds, given one's obligations to one's students and one's colleagues.

TT lady

Serf, one more thought: the job market is a "zero sum game": someone's life is going to end up blighted. So it's not the case that we are trading the "blighted lives of many men" for women's comfort in the classroom (and any other benefits there might be to AA) but rather, we trade blighting the lives of some over blighting the lives of others, in order to make women, minorities, etc. feel more comfortable in the classroom, in addition to whatever other benefits there might be for AA in hiring. Again, I'm not sure what exactly I think about this, all things considered.

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