U.S. Philosophy PhDs: Still Overwhelmingly White


How has the racial and ethnic composition of philosophy PhDs in the US changed over the past decade or so?

[Robert Ryman, “Arrow”]

Over at The Splintered Mind, Eric Schwitzgebel (UC Riverside) gives us the numbers.

Here’s the breakdown for philosophy PhDs in 2011 and 2021.

2011 2021
Hispanic or Latino (any race)
(categories below are non-Hispanic)
4.9% 9.0%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0.0% 0.0%
Asian 3.8% 4.1%
Black or African American 2.7% 2.8%
White 87.2% 81.0%
More than one race: 1.3% 3.1%

By comparison, here is the breakdown for all PhDs in 2021:

  • Hispanic or Latino (any race): 9.3%
  • American Indian or Alaska Native: 0.3%
  • Asian: 9.8%
  • Black or African American: 7.9%
  • White: 69.1%
  • More than one race: 3.5%

More details here.


Related: How White Is Philosophy Compared To Other Humanities?

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

65 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jaime Penser
1 year ago

Maybe Western Philosophy Departments should stop shaming students of color for their work not fitting into their incredibly narrow definition of “philosophy.”

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Jaime Penser
1 year ago

Note that the imbalance is present across the humanities, as the link to the related article shows. That doesn’t mean that what you are saying isn’t right, but whatever is going on isn’t limited to philosophy.

Christine
Christine
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

Yes but philosophy is possibly the most notorious for it because of our claims to universality.

On the Market
On the Market
Reply to  Jaime Penser
1 year ago

How so? Examples?

David Wallace
David Wallace
1 year ago

If I’m reading the data correctly, this isn’t a breakdown of philosophy PhDs: it’s a breakdown of the subset of philosophy PhDs who are US residents. (US racial categories aren’t obviously even that well defined for non-US students.)

Greg
Greg
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

This is actually a really fair point to bring up. As a current PhD student in the U.S., more than half of the non-white students in my program are international students, and they come from an extremely diverse set of countries. I’d be curious to see whether these statistics would look different if international students were taken into account.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

One cannot help but think the lack of robust affirmative action programs (including administrative anxiety about their constitutional status where they do exist) in more than a few colleges and universities in part explains what is going on here. And the upcoming SCOTUS decision in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina will have an enormous impact one way or other, with the Conservative majority suggesting yet more legal and moral regression from the highest court in the land. Here is but one useful treatment of the salient issues at stake for our Liberal democracy: https://theconversation.com/a-diverse-supreme-court-grapples-with-affirmative-action-with-its-justices-of-color-split-sharply-on-the-meaning-of-equal-protection-196554

Edward Cantu
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

“[L]egal and moral regression”? Really? There are very sound arguments that affirmative action is unconstitutional. There are also sound arguments on the other side. How precisely would the Court striking down AA mean a moral and legal regression on the part of the Court?

Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

In my country, people from sectors that on average have a lower economic status usually choose fields that ensure more economic security, like medicine and engineering. As a result, you’ll find much fewer philosophy Ph.D. students from these sectors than M.D. students, say. I understand from the blog post that in general, the humanities are whiter than other fields, which is no surprise given that usually, people from well-off families will be less afraid to take such an economic risk and study humanities. Without data about the numbers and percentages of applicants to undergrad and grad studies in philosophy and other areas by race, I wouldn’t jump to conclusions about “shaming students of color” and “lack of robust affirmative action”. If I were to grow up in a less well-off family I’m not sure that I would choose philosophy, even though it’s what I love the most.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

So you do not believe that a lack of robust affirmative action can be part of the explanation? And how is that “jumping to conclusions?” And I would say what is happening with regard to racism in the U.S. is rather different from what is happening elsewhere.

Oxford Grad Student
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

Did I say anything about X cannot be part of an explanation of Y? All I said is that X being a *good* explanation of Y is dependent on the evidence, and without good evidence explaining Y by X is jumping to conclusions. Do you disagree with that?

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

There is evidence that without affirmative action, people of color, especially (thus not only), blacks do not have equal access to higher institutions of learning. Do you assume there is not such evidence?

Some evidence: “A 2007 study by Mark Long, an economics professor at the University of Washington, demonstrated that when state referendums and court decisions forced flagship public universities in California, Texas, and Washington to abandon their large, race-based affirmative-action preferences in admissions, so-called ‘Top-X’ alternatives to racial preferences—in which the highest-graded students at all public high schools in the state were guaranteed admission to public colleges—were unable to make up for the losses in black and Hispanic enrollment. Specifically, apparent rebounds of black and Hispanic enrollment were, in fact, explained by increasing minority enrollment in high schools of those states, and the primary beneficiaries of these ‘class-based’ affirmative action policies appeared to be white students.”
 
“A 2020 study by UC Berkeley Center Studies in Higher Education researcher Zachary Bleemer on the impact of California’s ban on affirmative action on student outcomes using a difference-in-difference research design and a newly constructed longitudinal database linking all 1994–2002 University of California applicants to their college enrollment, course performance, major choice, degree attainment, and wages into their mid-30s found ‘the first causal evidence that banning affirmative action exacerbates socioeconomic inequities.’ According to the study, the ban on affirmative action decreased Black and Latino student enrollment within the University of California system, reduced their likelihood of graduating and attending graduate school, and resulted in a decline in wages.”
 
Sources for more, albeit indirect, but no less relevant evidence:
 
From those with the requisite knowledge of this subject, people, for example as different as the sociologist Orlando Patterson and the late law professor, Lani Guinier, have cited abundant evidence and the relevant for reasons why affirmative action programs are necessary. In general, some of these reasons are the same as or at least analogous to the case for reparations for blacks. Following their original implementation, these programs evidenced some success in achieving their aims until conservatives and Republicans began to attack them beginning roughly with the Reagan administration and the courts soon followed suit, including, importantly, the U.S. Supreme Court. With affirmative action programs in place, progress was being made with regard to equity or fairness and equality but with new legislation in the states and court decisions the gains were thwarted if not virtually eliminated at many schools (the exceptions in this instance help confirm the rule).
 
Obstacles on the path to professional philosophy for blacks begins with recognition of the fact that “ … [c]onventional assessment and predictive criteria do not function fairly, democratically, or even meritocratically for many Americans who are not members of racial or gender minorities.” “The present system of selection is unfair for people who are neither women nor people of color [since this was written there have been improvements for women on this score]. It denies opportunity for advancement to many poor and working-class Americans of all colors and genders who could otherwise obtain educational competence. It is under-inclusive of those who can actually do the job. It is deeply problematic as a predictor of actual job performance. Across-the-board, it does violence to fundamental principles of equity and ‘functional merit’ in its distribution of opportunities for admission to higher education, entry-level hiring, and job promotion.” “Gender and race differentials in standardized tests have been widely documented, both in the scholarly literature and in litigation.” (Susan Sturm and Lani Guinier)
 
More broadly, I believe it remains the case, as Sturm and Guinier argued back in the late 1990s, that “It is time to ask a different set of questions about affirmative action, questions that address the most pressing problems facing not only people of color and women, but all of those who are unfairly excluded from participation in work and education. We need to go beyond the modest curative of affirmative action to examine more deeply our system of selecting and evaluating all workers and students. This approach to affirmative action can open up an inquiry into the adequacy and legitimacy of the one-size-fits-all approach to selection that prevails in many arenas.”
 
Finally, please consider: “5 Reasons to Support Affirmative Action in College Admissions
 

Oxford Grad Student
Oxford Grad Student
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

The issue discussed is the relative lower representation of non-whites in philosophy Ph.D. programs relative to other Ph.D. programs and not the lower representation of non-whites in Ph.D. programs in general.
Thus, unfortunately, your comment is highly irrelevant.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

Thus an increase in the sheer number of blacks admitted into higher education generally will have no effect whatsoever on these numbers? And, to change tracks, are there not lower enrollment numbers in philosophy compared to other fields of study in the humanities and social sciences (thus a much wider pool makes it easier to reflect a disparity in numbers).
 
Finally (and then I will leave it to students and their teachers in the profession to further debate this given my highly irrelevant comment), I wonder if many blacks, rightly or wrongly, frown upon academic philosophy when held up alongside those black “public philosophers” who, after Marx, not only interpret the world in various ways,” but also seek (or have sought) to change it (HBCUs have only one doctoral program in philosophy, which may speak to the conditions of and reasons behind their founding more than any particular attitude toward professional philosophy), philosophers such as Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. Dubois, Frantz Fanon, Frantz Fanon, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Angela Y. Davis (she did receive a PhD in philosophy), for example. There are of course brilliant black professional philosophers, such as Alain Locke, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Anita L. Allen, Bernard R. Boxill, Lewis R. Gordon, the late Charles W. Mills, Tommie Shelby, Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò, and Cornel West (like West, a few of these are also politically active) among others, but has the profession accorded them the requisite recognition? I’m not sure, not being an academic, but it appears from the outside looking in that only a few of them (and their works) receive attention comparable to their white counterparts (I will be happy to be proven wrong).

Oxford Grad Student
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

“Thus an increase in the sheer number of blacks admitted into higher education generally will have no effect whatsoever on these numbers?” – No! Sorry, it’s high school mathematics. Even if the number of blacks admitted to higher education doubles, as long as their distribution among Ph.D. programs will stay the same as it is today, philosophy will remain a discipline with underrepresentation of black in in exactly the same ratios. The number of black philosophy Ph.D. students will double of course in this scenario, but again, it’s not the matter at issue in this discussion.
(Technically, if all other numbers remain equal, there will of course be a change in the other percentages, but not a change that will imply something about black students being shamed or not being shamed in philosophy departments).
Until you’ll convince yourself in this fairly indisputable piece of mathematics, I don’t see a point in continuing this discussion.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

How do you know the distribution will stay the same? It might, it might not.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

I did not say anything about the case for shaming or not shaming. And “as long as their distribution among Ph.D. programs will stay the same as it is today,” that’s a tautology, as I am arguing that we will not know if it will stay the same so it will not do to simply say it will in response to what I wrote above. And I am not confident of your authority to inform me about what is and is not at issue in this discussion (although I suppose if one is keen on identifying oneself as from Oxford, that might come with the territory).

Oxford Grad Student
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

Right, so no more discussion. Just to set the record straight, I usually comment simply under the name of “Grad Student”. My last comment before the comments to this article was on the news about Fraser from Oxford to ACU/Dianoia | Daily Nous. I identified there as “Oxford Grad Student” because I thought it’s appropriate given that I praise them for being two of the nicest people in Oxford. I only noticed that I still have the ‘Oxford’ before my name after my first comment here and kept it so people will know I’m the same person. I hope to remember taking it off in the next article I comment on.
I hope it shows you that sometimes even though it’s very tempting to explain everything by ascribing ill intentions to people, sometimes reality is much more mundane.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

I was not tempted “to explain everything by ascribing ill intentions to people,” rather, I grew tired of the condescension in several comments and imagined a possible explanation for that. I happen to prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt: I am of an older generation and thus have never been comfortable with anonymous comments (and yes I have heard the litany of reasons for doing so, but none of these I find compelling or persuasive).

David Wallace
Reply to  Patrick S. O'Donnell
1 year ago

Let me comment under my own name to say that I think this is an unkind and inaccurate stereotype to apply to Oxford’s very large and intellectually diverse group of graduate students.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Reply to  David Wallace
1 year ago

I think it was picked up from watching too many episodes of Inspector Morse (and a few other films and such), and like many stereotypes, there may be some truth to it (perhaps in another era), but I was trying to account for the attitude of the comments and it seemed to fit in this case. I would hesitate to generalize, one reason I used a modal verb, if I’m not mistaken. At any rate, given the source of the remark, I am confident members of this very large and intellectually diverse group will not take offense. Thanks for weighing in with the reprimand. Best wishes, Patrick

Preston Stovall
Reply to  Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

These are all good points, and one hopes that there will be more uptake of these kinds of considerations in the future. In the case of women, we now have good evidence that the big drop-off in their representation in the discipline begins at the beginning of their undergraduate experience with philosophy. We also have evidence that, far from suffering from a lack of affirmative-action programs, being a woman gives one a greater improved odds for landing a TT job in philosophy today than graduating from a top program. And we’re beginning to see that decisions based on preference and true belief about the work and life opportunities in philosophy appear to be playing an important role in explaining why women tend to prefer to do different things with their lives. In the absence of data about non-white PhD applicants which show a disparity against their acceptance into programs, the jump to shame-based and affirmative-action-based interventions here is unwarranted.

Grad Student UK
Grad Student UK
Reply to  Preston Stovall
1 year ago

I also think you and OP make sensible points, but I’m curious about the following:

“We also have evidence that … being a woman gives one a greater improved odds for landing a TT job in philosophy today than graduating from a top program.”

How does one measure that kind of relationship? Could you mention some studies that support this conclusion, or is this anecdotal?

Last edited 1 year ago by Grad Student UK
Preston Stovall
Reply to  Grad Student UK
1 year ago

There’s data, and plenty of it has been discussed here over the years. This is from a discussion in October of last year:

https://dailynous.com/2022/10/04/gender-in-philosophy-hiring/

The opening sentence:

When it comes to finding a permanent academic position in philosophy, “women have 58–114 percent greater odds than men, or a probability difference of 10–17 percent.”

And from a little farther down:

The authors rule out explanations for women’s apparent advantage here that are already addressed by their regression analysis, such as areas of specialization and prestige of graduate programs.

Finally, from section 5.2 of the article itself (Kallens, Hicks, and Jennings, “Networks in philosophy: Social networks and employment in academic philosophy“, Metaphilosophy, published online October 1, 2022),

(a) Women and (b) graduates of high-prestige programs appear to have a substantial advantage, roughly a 7–14 percent increase (prestige) and 10–17 percent increase (women) in the probability of landing a permanent position (within the time frame of the available data);

Be sure to read the comments of the linked article for some anecdotal evidence that thumbs are being placed on the scales in some cases. The plural of “anecdote” is not “data”, of course, but the data itself is already pointing in that direction. Comments like this are shocking:

I have served on a half-dozen search committees in philosophy and political theory, and another half-dozen in other fields. I’d say we’ve done this at least four or five of those times — designated a line for women applicants only, that is. It’s a shame that we couldn’t put it in the ad, but that would obviously be more trouble than it’s worth.

One wishes there were men and women of principle standing up to this kind of shenanigans, but at least people are more aware of what’s going on now than they were when this information was first being collected and discussed a decade ago.

Grad Student UK
Grad Student UK
Reply to  Preston Stovall
1 year ago

That’s helpful – thanks!

philosophy student
philosophy student
Reply to  Oxford Grad Student
1 year ago

Growing up in a low-income immigrant community in the states, I can attest to this. Many of my brilliant peers who finished higher education pursued degrees that would provide economic security.

I find myself uneasy about the concept of “diversity.” Is a field really diverse and inclusive when it simply patches very privileged people of color into it? The concept of diversity needs to extend beyond appearances, and maybe then you’ll arrive at a higher percentage of philosophy grads and phd grads as a whole who are non-white. Having more departments provide summer programs for low-income high school students could be a good start for initiating the pipeline.

As a student of color, I find myself relating to my “white” teachers, who came from a similar socio-economic background than the teachers who looked like me but came from the privileged elites. The latter felt inaccessible.

Last edited 1 year ago by philosophy student
Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  philosophy student
1 year ago

Exactly.

And, for what it’s worth, the non-white, non-male, or non-European students in my philosophy classes (at both an urban and a rural community college) couldn’t care less about the whiteness, maleness, or Europeanness of any of the authors we read. Not only are they quite happy to enlarge their imaginations and learn from anyone, they are fully capable of doing so. The notion that students won’t get into authors who aren’t “like them” has begun to look tokenizing at best and patronizing at worst.

Prof L
Reply to  Animal Symbolicum
1 year ago

Thank you! This is my least favorite assumption that colleagues often make — “We need more Asian philosophers on the syllabus if we want more majors who are Asian!” etc. I’m all for diversifying the canon, but it has to be because these people are good, not because women can’t get interested in philosophy except through Mary Wollstonecraft or something. It’s highly insulting to insinuate that somehow Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hume etc. are for white men in a way that excludes everyone else.

Imagine if they did the same in the sciences! “Let’s put some lady physics on here for the ladies. They clearly aren’t interested in QFT, which was primarily developed by men, but if we want more women in physics, we should focus on Noether and symmetry.” etc.

Leonel Alvarez Ceja
1 year ago

I am a Native American/Chicano Ph.D. prospective in philosophy, and I am deeply concerned about the low number of Native American Ph.D. recipients in the US. I hope that by being in the profession, I may advocate for greater representation and support for Native American students in philosophy. However, this, of course, comes with its challenges, and I am far too early in my career to fully understand how much the profession will change (or how much I will change) by the time I graduate. Does anyone here have any suggestions? 

Hector Cardenas
Hector Cardenas
Reply to  Leonel Alvarez Ceja
1 year ago

Hey I’m also thinking about the same major do you think you can email me?

Leonel Alvarez Ceja
Reply to  Hector Cardenas
1 year ago

Hi Hector,
For sure homie, email me at leoalvarez[at]g[dot]ucla[dot]edu I would be more than happy to share some information and let you know whats up.

Preston Stovall
Reply to  Leonel Alvarez Ceja
1 year ago

Hi Leonel. It’s so hard to offer advice in a situation like this, not least of which because it needs to be tailored to things like “what do you work on?”, “where are you studying?, and “where do you want to work?” And that’s not to touch on any of the issues about what professional philosophy is liable to look like by the time you graduate, or what it’s place will be in the academy.

Having said that, if you’re interested in increasing native American representation in philosophy, I encourage you to look into pipeline issues, and consider bringing philosophical instruction into native schools. If you have the opportunity, and you’re sufficiently up to speed on a set of topics that students can easily get into, you may find it’s not very time-consuming, it’s very rewarding, and it increases the visibility and appeal of philosophy to such populations. Over the last year, I’ve been working on a program with Kristen Intemann and Bonnie Sheehey of Montana State University to bring critical thinking skills into high school classrooms, and owing to some of Kristen’s and Bonnie’s connections we targeted schools on tribal lands in Montana. I also run a weekly after-school philosophy club here in the Czech Republic, and this week I had a student come up after a one-off discussion at a school outside of town and ask about the philosophy program at my university.

It can be difficult for teachers to make room for the programming, but my feeling is that we’re reaching a tipping point, and that this kind of instruction will be more common in the future. Feel free to send me an email if you’re interested in a chat. [email protected].

John
Reply to  Preston Stovall
1 year ago

Thanks, Preston. I think one upshot here is that affirmative action is a very crude tool for addressing diversity problems.

The best solution is to work equity into the education system from the get-go, and more generally into society through policies that support families and provide children with real opportunities.

This would completely solve objections to AA along the lines of its recipients being less qualified and, some might think, less capable. If everyone gets a solid shot from as early as possible, it’s much easier to admissions committees to evaluate candidates regardless of demographics.

Genuinely blind applications would then actually be feasible.

Leonel Alvarez Ceja
Reply to  Preston Stovall
1 year ago

Hi Preston, thank you for your response! I found it very helpful. I think you are right about targeting pipeline issues. Fortunately, I was able to evade the school-to-prison pipeline that, unfortunately, plagued my community. So I think there is much to be said about grassroots involvement. Once I get a clearer picture of where I have the opportunity to do my Ph.D., I can then really think about a more prosperous investment in these issues. Until then, I really appreciate you adding to my larger toolset on how to tackle said issues. Thanks again!

Julia Jorati
Julia Jorati
Reply to  Leonel Alvarez Ceja
1 year ago

Hi Leonel, the APA has a Native American and Indigenous Philosophers committee (https://www.apaonline.org/group/indigenous) that is doing some advocacy work of the type you describe. If you’d like to get involved in this work, maybe you could contact the committee chair.

Leonel Alvarez Ceja
Reply to  Julia Jorati
1 year ago

Hi Julia, perfect! Thank you for this resource, I had no idea there was a committee. Cheers!

Jala
1 year ago

I’m sorry but, as a middle Eastern, can you in the US Stop using the term “White” in the awkward sense that includes many arab or persian students in philosophy as white? Middle eastern people experience all kinds of marginalizations and racial/gender descrimination without being counted according to your categories. If you understand who middle eastern people are and count them correctly, this percentage might look a bit better than what you’re claiming! Not claiming that the problems with be resolved though.

Arab Woman Philosopher
Arab Woman Philosopher
Reply to  Jala
1 year ago

As an Arab woman in philosophy, I second this sentiment!

David Wallace
Reply to  Jala
1 year ago

This relates to my earlier point: these are specifically US racial/ethnic categories (defined by the government, I think), and the percentages are percentages of US grad students, not all grad students. An arab student in a US program who is not a US citizen or permanent resident will not show up on these statistics at all.

(And that’s normatively sensible, I think. The question of (say) how many students are being admitted from China or Singapore vs. from the US is quite different from the question of how many Asian-American students vs US white students are being admitted; or, put another way, international diversity is a different axis of diversity from ethnic diversity among US students.)

As for Iranian-American or Arab-American students: I think they can declare that as their race if they want to (this data is based on self report), in which case they’d show up in the “other race” category of the NSF data (which is negligibly small). I’m not 100% sure about that but in any case those two categories are together only 1% or so of the US population so probably it doesn’t move the numbers much.

Greg Guy
1 year ago

So what are the ‘correct’ values that the ethnic makeup of philosophy should have? Namely, at what point is it ok to say ‘Job done’, and move on to other concerns?

John
Reply to  Greg Guy
1 year ago

Well it can’t be 50/50, since that’d require AA programs for white men in psychology, social work, law school, med school, and actually all of higher ed.

Right?

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  John
1 year ago

Interestingly, in a survey my uni just sent around regarding attitudes to “diversity”, “diversity” was defined as the presence of women and minorities. I guess the English department is 100% diverse, since it’s all women.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Greg Guy
1 year ago

That may depend on why we find the imbalance problematic. One reason we might have is that, on the assumption that philosophical talent is equally distributed, we are missing out on philosophically gifted people. Another reason is that we might think that a diversity of perspectives is liable to reveal things that might not have come to light, or might not have been taken seriously, otherwise. In this latter case, ethnic balance may be more important in some sub-fields than others. It might, for instance, matter more in political philosophy than philosophy of logic.

Greg Guy
Greg Guy
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

Who is this ‘we’ who find the imbalance problematic? Also, what does it mean to have an imbalance if you can’t specify what the correct balance is?

I also don’t see the point of endless ‘it mights’ without any evidence. Has anyone ever demonstrated that once you achieve some sort of perfect balance something new and amazing happens? Maybe diversity matters more in logic than political philosophy. Who knows, and I suspect very few care.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  Greg Guy
1 year ago

By “we” I just meant anyone who finds it problematic. The word “imbalance” does assume a problem. The word “disparity” would have been a more neutral choice. I didn’t mean to beg any questions there.

I certainly can’t demonstrate that more diversity would lead to better philosophy. It’s a huge problem with philosophy that it’s impossible, or almost impossible, to demonstrate that anything leads to better philosophy. I think that all we can do is speculate and take our best guesses.

On the market
On the market
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

Regarding the second reason, a diversity of perspectives requires viewpoint diversity, which DEI statements in hiring (and increasingly, promotion and tenure) actively stifle. Insofar as increasing the diversity of perspectives is a goal of reducing demographic disparities, a principal tool used to pursue the latter has made matters much worse.

Hey Nonny Mouse
Hey Nonny Mouse
Reply to  On the market
1 year ago

I don’t defend the use of mandatory DEI statements in hiring.

On the Market
On the Market
Reply to  Hey Nonny Mouse
1 year ago

Sorry, didn’t mean to imply you did. The comment was intended as regarding the issue in general, not any particular person’s position.

Ana Funes
1 year ago

I have not seen discussed the issue that many Philosophy programs at small public liberal arts colleges all around the US are being closed and this will have an effect on the type of students that will make it to a PhD in philosophy. Many students of color from working class only get to experience philosophy for the first time at these institutions. But many of these Philosophy programs are being closed, underfunded, or made unviable by lack of administrative support (as is the case for my current institution). The issue of diversity is also a class issue. The closure of these programs means less jobs for PhDs in philosophy. And it is true that for many students of color from working class the lack of job prospects in Philosophy is a huge reason for not majoring in it.

Ian
Ian
1 year ago

Oxford Grad already mentioned this, but I think these numbers relate largely to economics. Simply put, the life of a grad student in the humanities is often under the poverty line (2008-2015 for me at a major public uni we were paid under $25k per year with no checks between roughly July and October). Many if not all prestigious grad schools are located in desirable areas, so housing and food and utilities are higher than they are in less economically stable areas. Add to this the fact that the job market in the humanities writ large is just abysmally bad, that economic stability has–for the majority of people in the country–become drastically less common since Reaganite economic policies and globalization, as cost of living far outpaces wage growth, as owning a house becomes unfeasible in more and more places, as household debt increases, and college borders on being more of a very expensive, debt-accruing summer camp than an investment in one’s future, and it is easy to see why at least right now that you’d almost have to be a fool to pursue a doctorate in the humanities.

For folks who come from economically unstable backgrounds or communities, and I’ll let you look up average income by race yourself, what possible reason would they have for pursuing graduate education in the humanities? Of course, this explanation may not at first seem to account for the lack of Asian-American humanities PhDs, as A-A families on average outpace whites in income. Perhaps in a generation or two, when economic security of some of these families, we’ll see an uptick in A-A humanities grad students.

TL;DR — The US is economically broken with no real end in sight. Until a basic kind of stability is at least reasonably likely for folks who are interested in careers in the humanities, only folks who don’t feel the pressure of economic stability will be pursuing those degrees.

FWIW, I got my PhD in 2015 from a UC in a top 15 program. I was a returning grad student, and am now closer to 50 than to 45. From 2015-2022, I worked as a contingent in SoCal, never making more than $65k a year until I worked two full-time positions (teaching 14 courses in one AY) and often a lot less. I am married and have a child. My wife is a social worker. We cannot afford to buy a house and have never been able to enter the housing market. My current position is as a VAP at a SLAC where I make $57k for a 3/3 load. I just found out two days ago from our dean that my position will not be renewed–this is not a merit based decision, the VAP was given to another dept. While we don’t quite live paycheck to paycheck, we are not able to save enough to do vacations or build up a 10% down payment on a house and now we’ll be moving again in a few months–not cheap. All this to say, I absolutely would not recommend this path to anyone unless they just want to do a PhD for fun and have plans to work outside of higher ed.

NB: I am a straight, white male. My father was a professor at a small state school in the west. Neither my wife or I come from backgrounds of generational wealth. My degree is not in an obscure subject and I’ve published and presented at conferences and gotten strong evals for years. This life sucks and, yes, I need to get out. But the point is that I’ve given it as much of a go as I could and it’s just a disaster. Perhaps more importantly, variations of this experience are the rule, not the exception.

Animal Symbolicum
Reply to  Ian
1 year ago

Thank you for airing this.

Whether you intended to or not, you seem to me to be putting your finger on at least two ways these conversations can become unmoored.

First, the data from which these conversations take flight are measures that almost invariably serve as shorthand for a whole bunch of stuff. The question to ask, as you suggest, is: what does having a PhD in philosophy actually reliably indicate about the person who earns it? (And I would bet, as you suggest, that one of the only measurables it comes close to reliably indicating is something about the person’s economic security.)

Second, the far-from-transparent data from which these conversations take flight are too-quickly read in light of a meritocratic worldview that recognizes all manner of epiphenomenal disparities but ignores probably the only disparity that makes a difference: disparity in economic power (not to mention economic autonomy and economic non-alienation).

Ian
Ian
Reply to  Ian
1 year ago

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2023/03/06/the-end-of-the-english-major

It seems to me that this overlong article, which is about English so the details will be different from other disciplines in the humanities, lays out pretty well exactly what I noted above while noting the tremendous disinvestment in the humanities of the past 20 years. Add to this economic uncertainty and the ever-increasing cost of a college education, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  Ian
1 year ago

I second this interpretation. I live in the US but I’m from an incredibly poor country in the Global South. We immgrated to the US and lived as undocumented immigrants for some time in my youth. We were poor, went to terrible American schools, and I worked as a child and as a teenager to help out the family.

I ended up getting a PhD in Philosophy but it was not an easy road both because I was radically underprepared on the way to graduate school but also because graduate programs are (or at least were at that time) not built with students like me in mind. If I had to do it all over again, I would have studied something much more practical and more ecomically rewarding.

I also, now as a tenured professor, strongly discourage students who are like me from going to graduate school for Philosophy for all these reasons. My primary duty, as I understand it, is to them and not to help the discipline become more diverse. It would be a genuine disservice for me to suggest that poor students (of any demographic / identity backgrounds) sign up to get a PhD in Philosophy. I see this as a moral position I’m willing to defend.

What this has led to, by and large, is to what Olúfẹ́mi Táíwò calls “Elite Capture” in Philosophy where diversity, when it does exist, tends to be represent elites within the relevant diversity profile (middle and upper middle class Black, Asian, Latino, Middle-Eastern, and African students get these degrees and – importantly – their views may not really be representative of the views of the vast majority of folks in the relevant demographic category). So the payoff of increasing diversity is less than what it could be (if the value of diversity is meant to be epistemic as well as intrinsic).

Lu Chen
1 year ago

This may be off-topic, but I observed very few asian international students (e.g., Chinese, Korean, Japanese) being very successful in US philosophy PhD programs, except for those who already attended US colleges—far fewer than in scientific programs. By “being very successful” here, I meant something like being competitive in the US job market such as getting interviews. I also witnessed some cultural exclusion within some US philosophy programs—like a very popular asian person in their own country getting persistently ignored despite their effort to mingle, which might or might not have something to do with eventual success. Of course, success is hard for anyone, but finger crossed for a more inclusive environment!

Asian Bayesian
Asian Bayesian
Reply to  Lu Chen
1 year ago

I have noticed the same thing, both in phd programs and conferences. And heaven forbid you have any sort of accent. Alas, I think the Asian experience in philosophy is not a great one.

PhilMath
Reply to  Lu Chen
1 year ago

I have a different experience. In my field at least, Asian international students have been more successful than other international students (Indian, South American, French, etc.). I agree that the success rate of Asian international students in philosophy is much lower than in the sciences but I think that that is true of international students (except UK and Australia) in general and not just limited to Asian international students.

Brian Weatherson
Brian Weatherson
Reply to  PhilMath
1 year ago

Has geography changed while I wasn’t looking and India has been separated from Asia?

John
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
1 year ago

Likely not, and the language hasn’t either: the poster pretty clearly means to distinguish East Asian (what is usually just called ‘Asian’) from South Asian (what is usually called Indian, Pakistani, etc.).

SCM
SCM
Reply to  John
1 year ago

By “usually,” I take it you mean by people in the United States, regardless of how the rest of the world may use the term, particularly people in Asia, and regardless of whether US usage makes sense?

Last edited 1 year ago by SCM
John
Reply to  SCM
1 year ago

What’s confusing about distinguishing East and South Asia? And yes, I am referring to how English speakers use an English term.

SCM
SCM
Reply to  John
1 year ago

There’s nothing at all confusing about distinguishing East and South Asia! Brian’s original comment concerned the use of the term Asian’ to exclude Indians. This is parochial usage, notusual.’

Last edited 1 year ago by SCM
SCM
SCM
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
1 year ago

India’s only been part of Asia for 55 million years—give people time to adapt.

PhilMath
Reply to  Brian Weatherson
1 year ago

Sorry I wasn’t explicit. Because Lu Chen listed East Asian countries in their post (Chinese, Korean, Japanese, etc.) I took them to identify Asian with East Asian. I just wanted to point out that in my experience international students from East Asian countries — compared to other international students (from the subcontinent, Middle East, South America, non-Anglophone countries, etc.) — are not disproportionally unsuccessful. Even if I misunderstood Lu Chen and they meant to include international students from all Asian countries, my point stands: students from Asian countries (China, India, Qatar, Uzbekistan etc.) — at least in my experience — are not disproportionally unsuccessful compared to other international students.

Lu Chen
Reply to  PhilMath
1 year ago

To clarify, I wasn’t trying to exclude certain asian countries, nor was I even trying to compare the successful rate of asians vs nonasian international students:) I was talking about whom I might know better. But thanks for sharing your experience too!