When people talk about inequality these days, they typically mean economic inequality, disparities in income, assets, or other financial measures. But inequalities come in other forms as well, and the academy is home to some of the more entrenched and persistent ones. To those who think the democratizing effects of gender equality and digital technology had begun to erode the hegemony of the academic elite, a close look at hiring and publishing patterns might come as a surprise.
Several recent studies have shown a high degree of concentration in academic hiring from a small number of PhD-granting institutions. One study of political science programs in the United States found that the top five programs placed 20 percent of all academics at research institutions; another study found that graduates of eight universities were hired for half of all tenure-track jobs. In our study of long-term publishing trends in three leading humanities journals, the patterns were similarly striking.