Jarring’ study reveals hiring bias at US institutions

Anna Nowogrodzki

Specifically, the study, published in Nature on 21 September, shows that just 20% of PhD-granting institutions in the United States supplied 80% of tenure-track faculty members to institutions across the country between 2011 and 2020 (see ‘Hiring bias’). No historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) or Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) were among that 20%, says Hunter Wapman, a computer scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and a co-author of the paper. One in eight US-trained tenure-track faculty members got their PhDs from just five elite universities: the University of California, Berkeley; Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts; the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor; Stanford University in California; and the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

“It’s not surprising, but it is jarring” to see these data, says Leslie Gonzales, a social scientist who studies higher education at Michigan State University in East Lansing. “There’s so much brilliant work and training of brilliant scholars that’s happening outside of this tiny sliver” of institutions, including at HBCUs and HSIs — and it’s being overlooked, she says.