One of the things I hated about university is that all my classmates tried to sound intelligent by beginning every sentence with “from a Marxist perspective”. But why is academia is so liberal?  One possibility is that academics are more intelligent, and intelligent people are more liberal.  However research I found on Dr. James Thompson’s excellent blog suggests that’s not the whole story.

Thompson quotes from Noah Carl’s paper: Can intelligence explain the overrepresentation of liberals and leftists in American academia? Intelligence Volume 53, November–December 2015, Pages 181–193:

It is well known that individuals with so-called liberal or leftist views are overrepresented in American academia. By bringing together data on American academics, the general population and a high-IQ population, the present study investigates how much of this overrepresentation can be explained by intelligence. It finds that intelligence can account for most of the disparity between academics and the general population on the issues of abortion, homosexuality and traditional gender roles. By contrast, it finds that intelligence cannot account for any of the disparity between academics and the general population on the issue of income inequality. But for methodological reasons, this finding is tentative. Furthermore, the paper finds that intelligence may account for less than half of the disparity on liberal versus conservative ideology, and much less than half the disparity on Democrat versus Republican identity. Following the analysis, eight alternative explanations for liberal and leftist overrepresentation are reviewed.

I don’t have time to read the study to find out what those eight alternative explanations are, but one obvious explanation which I doubt was included, is that academics are just plain jealous that people with less education than they have, are much much richer.

Dr. James Thompson writes:

Over-representation of liberals and Democrats appears to be largest in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts (particularly sociology, anthropology and the performing arts), and appears to be smallest in economics, business, computer science, engineering and military science. For example, the ratio of liberal to conservative English literature professors may be as high as 28:1, while the ratio of Democrat to Republican sociology professors may be as high as 44:1 . Over-representation in the physical sciences, the biological sciences and mathematics appears to be intermediate, though still considerable.

Notice how liberal over-representation is most acute in the most snobbish and status obsessed fields (English literature)?

Commenter JS writes:

I don’t think those college professors are jealous of the rich.

Many tenured professors are well to do. Maybe not millionaires, although some of them are. They live in nice neighborhoods and earn about 1/4 million in yearly salary. Some of them also invest, so they have more money than that. Furthermore, some universities/colleges provide fancy perks to them.

Of course 1/4 million a year is nothing in America, where you need $1.7 billion to be one of the 400 richest Americans.

Having a lot of education without the money to go with it has been to compared to having enormous muscles but very little height.  David Brooks coined the term status-income disequilibrium and in his book Coming Apart Charles Murray describes the humiliation:

…eminent Columbia faculty member [who] goes home after giving his speech at the Plaza Hotel to admiring Wall Street executives. While his audience is dispersing in their limos to their duplex cooperatives on the Upper East Side, he catches a cab home to his cramped apartment near the Columbia campus, his standing ovation still ringing in his ears, only to be told by his wife that the shower drain is clogged and he must take care of it before the children get up for school the next morning.

I remember seeing an old rerun of Oprah where she was interviewing a PhD in sociology who had been on welfare for 23 years.  “I can’t imagine not working for 23 years,” Oprah explained.

This person clearly has a superiority complex because of his PhD and when another guest noted that it was 23 years old he replied “I don’t have to defend my degree here.  I have prestigious faculty and the World’s leading universities defending my degree.”

“HEY!” Oprah shouted. “All of that doesn’t mean anything, if you’re still sitting out not working.  All of that fancy talk don’t mean a darn thing if you still don’t have a job.”

The man went into a long-winded explanation for why he wasn’t working, and the audience began to heckle him.  At first Oprah tried to be open-minded, praising him for being a good talker (his vocab was large) and asked the audience to let him speak, but when they heckled him again, he shouted:


Oprah was so stunned that someone would dare order her around that she exploded into uncontrollable spitting snorting laughter.  Immediate laughter. She turned to the audience who was also laughing and continued to laugh with them.  It was total pandemonium as the PhD bounced around all alone on stage like a carnival freak pointing to the audience demanding “quiet”.

This man was so delusional that he thought his superior education allowed him to order around the richest and most worshiped self-made woman in America and she just thought that was so incredibly funny.  You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.

The power of sudden spontaneous in your face laughter.

When Oprah finally stopped laughing, she said: “Oh Martin, Martin, Martin. Duke directs this show. You do not.”