Why are There So Few Conservatives and Libertarians in Legal Academia? An Empirical Exploration of Three Hypotheses

55 Pages Posted: 7 Jan 2016 Last revised: 12 Feb 2016

James Cleith Phillips

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Students

Date Written: January 1, 2016

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.

Keywords: law school, citations, publications, conservatives, libertarians, liberals, discrimination

JEL Classification: J44, J71

Suggested Citation

Phillips, James Cleith, Why are There So Few Conservatives and Libertarians in Legal Academia? An Empirical Exploration of Three Hypotheses (January 1, 2016). Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2711461

James Cleith Phillips (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, Students ( email )

Berkeley, CA
United States

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