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Demographics and Legal Academic Reputation:

A lot of interesting things have been said about the gender makeup of Federalist Society events. But there's something much more complicated going on here, I think, than just the demographic makeup of Federalist Society regulars, or for that matter anything else that's specific to the Federalist Society. It may also be much more interesting — and possibly more troubling, depending on what you think the cause might be, and what causes along these lines you find troubling.

1. Most-cited law professors: Let's say that instead of going to a Federalist Society conference on Judge Bork (which had 19 panelists), you wanted to organize your own all-star conference with 19 law professors. And, wanting a proxy for scholarly reputation, you invited the 19 most-cited full-time law professors. (This is a highly imperfect proxy, but it's probably the most objective one we can use for this thought experiment. Note also that citation counts are for citations by law review articles, not by courts; that's just the data I happen to have.) How many women would there be at this conference?

Fortunately, Brian Leiter's 2002 most cited law faculty rankings give us an answer — one that's some years out of date, but that I suspect wouldn't differ much today. The answer is that 1 of the 19 panelists would be women; 18 of the 19 most-cited law professors (all but #15) would be men.

Of course, there's an obvious problem with that sample — most of the most-cited professors are in their 50s and 60s; when they were going to law school, there were few women in law school, and few women going into law teaching. For a better sense of the coming pattern (though not necessarily for a much better sense of what we might expect from conference invitations), we should be looking at a younger cohort. Let's avoid the gender imbalances caused by past gender imbalances in law school attendance by just inviting the 19 most-cited younger law professors, for instance ones who entered teaching since 1992 — conveniently, the result of another survey by Brian Leiter. And indeed this panel will not be 18/19th male.

It would be 100% male. Indeed, of the 50 younger scholars on Brian Leiter's list, only 6 (starting with #23) are women. Of all the cites to articles by those 50 scholars, only 8.7% are to articles by women. (See my spreadsheet based on the Leiter data.)

Again, I stress that citation counts are a very rough proxy for reputation, and they are biased among other things in favor of fields in which many articles are written. Within certain fields, the gender breakdown of the most-cited scholars may be quite different. And of course there are many women whose work has been heavily cited; the most cited active faculty colleague of mine at UCLA is Kimberle Crenshaw.

Still, the overall pattern of the data seems quite consistent, hard to dismiss as simply random or arbitrary, and thus quite striking. It also suggests that to the extent conference invitations are based in large measure on reputation, then if reputation is closely correlated with citation counts, it would be quite logical to see a lot of heavily male conferences.

2. Possible causes? Why, though, would this be? Women are 35% of all law professors, including 25% of all full professors. Women routinely graduate with top credentials from law schools; about 20-30% of Supreme Court clerks tend to be women. Why aren't we seeing 25-35% women among the top 20 most cited scholars?

Is it that scholars (whether just men or both men and women) are subconsciously or deliberately ignoring women's scholarship? Is it that women authors are being unfairly turned away by top journals? Is it that women are writing less, perhaps because they spend more time caring for kids? If so, how much of that is because the children's fathers refuse to do their fair share of the work, and how much of that is because the mothers value time with children more than the fathers do (and should the difference between the two causes matter)?

Is it that men tend to on average be more ambitious than women, more self-promoting, or more of whatever else that produces attention (quality-related or otherwise) for scholarly work, whether because of cultural reasons, biological reasons, or some mix of both? Is it that women tend to gravitate towards fields that for some reasons draw fewer citations? Are these effects chiefly present at the ends of the bell curve, or do they persist in considerable measure even further into the body of the bell curve?

These are difficult questions to answer, and perhaps even to ask — but they need to be asked if we want to think really hard about why we're seeing stark sex disparities in a wide range of legal academic contexts, from Federalist Society panels on.

3. Race and ethnicity: If you thought the sex picture was hard to explain, try this: If you look at the same top 50 most-cited who entered law teaching since 1992, you also see that (by my rough count, and judging by likely ethnicity, not by religiosity) 19 are Jews, a group that makes up 2% of the full-time working population. Part of this is the wild overrepresentation of Jews generally among the legal professoriate, a number that itself is hard to explain — Jim Lindgren's tentative survey from several years ago reported that 26% of law professors at top 100 law schools were Jews — but the numbers exceed even that.

Another 12 are Asians (meaning East or South Asians), a group that makes up 4% of the full-time working population. If you separate out South Asians (since in many ways it's just zany to lump Indians together with Chinese, or for that matter to lump together Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese), you'll find that 5 of the top 50 are South Asians, though South Asians make up 2/3 of 1% of the population. I don't recall precisely what fraction of the legal academy is Asian, but my recollection is that the fraction is no more than 5%, and thus far less than the 24% (or 10% for South Asians).

What's the reason for this? Subconscious tendencies to overcite certain ethnic groups? Disproportionate cultural distribution of various temperaments? Of attraction for certain kinds of intellectual questions? Beats me.

But look at this also another way: The 94% of the population that is neither Jewish nor Asian accounts for 30% of the total cites to articles written by the top 50 most-cited young scholars. Blacks make up 2 of the 50 spots, but once one excludes the Jews and the Asians, they make up 2 of the remaining 19 spots — a percentage not far different from the black population of the U.S. divided by the total non-Jewish non-Asian population. (The numbers would doubtless differ for the overall list of most-cited professors, not limited to those who entered teaching since 1992, but I take it that the more recent list is a better picture of where the profession is headed, especially as to Asians.) Query then whether the underrepresentation of blacks is underrepresentation of blacks as such or overrepresentation of some tiny minority groups.

* * *

So, there it is. I am most emphatically not making any claims that I know the causes of these patterns. And I'd love to hear others' similar analyses of other datasets. As I mentioned, the most-cited data is hardly the whole picture, and maybe there are even some glitches that undermine the representativeness of this particular set of 50 names collected with certain date cutoffs. I'm trying to ask questions here, not to give answers.

But I also want to suggest that one set of answers, or at least reactions, is misguided: If we're going to wonder about demographic disproportions in reputation-based legal academic contexts — such as conference invitations — it's a mistake to see the Federalist Society as particularly unusual. Our own profession's citation patterns show stunning disproportions that can't be put off to any Federalist-Society-specific practices.

UPDATE: Christine Hurt (Conglomerate Blog) has information on the gender breakdown of professors who publish in the Harvard Law Review.

UPDATE: If you want an even zanier data point to explain, note that of the 6 women in the top 50 most cited scholars who entered the field since 1992, 2 are listed in the AALS Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Community Law Teachers list (which, to my knowledge, is a means for people to identify their own sexual preference, and not just their scholarly interest area). This suggests that the underrepresentation of heterosexual women is even more striking than one might have at first thought — but that lesbian and bisexual women are overrepresented compared to women generally, and in this particular (small) list overrepresented even compared to their fraction of the overall population . A different sample that is more weighted towards older scholars, the 120 overall most-cited, yields a disparity that is less striking but still quite substantial: of the 19 women, 2 are listed in the AALS Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Community Law Teachers list. (According to Laumann et al., 4% of women report some same-sex partners since age 18, which I suspect slightly overstates the fraction who would report themselves as lesbian or bisexual; that 4% of women maps out to 2% of the public generally.)

OrinKerr:
I'm reminded of another interesting dynamic here: Back in 2005, when I asked current and former articles editors about the gender of authors of law review submissions they received, the general response (albeit based on a relatvely limited response) was that submissions by men outnumbered submissions by women on the order of about 2-to-1 or 3-to-1.
7.10.2007 3:08am
Mr. Impressive (mail):
Fascinating data along with a fascinating (and fairly objective) description of that data, Mr. Volokh.

Thank you very much.
7.10.2007 4:57am
A.C.:
What happens if you break "white" ethnic groups down further? Jewish vs. non-Jewish seems too crude for me. I would start with:

1) Establishment WASP
2) Jewish
3) Everyone else

In law school I noticed a common assumption that everyone who wasn't Jewish was automatically WASP (and not from Appalachia, either). But the majority of white people, even in law school, are in group 3.

My theory is that people in the first two groups have a much easier time establishing academic careers. Reasons can vary from person to person, but I suggest:

1) Families that place a high value on education,
2) Family support (psychological and financial) for pursuing a career that doesn't pay off quickly,
3) Lots of networking/mentoring opportunities within the profession,
4) Confidence in approaching something with a high failure rate, which is to say
5) Assumption that leadership roles in society "belong" to the sort of people one happens to be.

Most people, including most white people, don't have this cultural package. I take Italian Americans as an example. As a group, Italian Americans were unusually likely to drop out of high school as recently as the 1980s, and were therefore less likely to go to college. This has changed, but there's still a lag in graduate and professional school attendance. And even those Italian Americans who do attend professional schools probably get there by leaving an ethnic/social network behind, not by using one to get a leg up.

This may be the other end of the continuum from WASP/Jewish education patterns, at least among white ethnic groups, and I imagine other groups fall somewhere in between. It would be interesting to get a bigger data set and look at the ethnic backgrounds of white academics in more detail. Family immigration patterns would also be intersting, as would the educational and class status of recent generations regardless of what country they were in.
7.10.2007 9:15am
A.C.:
Make that "interesting." Not proofreading well today.
7.10.2007 9:19am
Mr. X (www):
Perhaps, for the event in question, the simple answer is that there aren't very many women who are fond enough of Judge Bork to want to come to his birthday party important CLE presentation. His views on equal protection leave quite a bit to be desired, specifically with regard to women, and I've heard no reports of him being fun to be around anyway, in the way that Scalia reportedly is.

Shorter version: bad panels make bad data.
7.10.2007 9:31am
Paging Larry Summers:
I presume that having the temerity to ask such impertinent questions, Professor Volokh is implicitly abandonning his quest to become President of Harvard University.
7.10.2007 10:07am
Richard Riley (mail):
Wow. Eugene raises the same questions Larry Summers did, and not only does he not lose his job (so far), he only attracts five (now six) comments! Admittedly Eugene phrases his observations and questions with the appropriate delicacy.

Re Orin Kerr's comment above: If Eugene is right that 35% of law professors are now women, then a rough estimate of 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 men-to-women among those submitting law review article just about matches the relevant population - much LESS gender imbalance than among the most-cited lawprofs per Eugene's post, although you seem to suggest that your informal statistic supports Eugene's observations.
7.10.2007 10:08am
Justin (mail):
Whether you agree or disagree with what Summers actually said, creating a fictional version of what happened at Harvard and attacking that fictional event is a useful exercise in ego only.
7.10.2007 10:47am
frankcross (mail):
Interesting stuff, though I contrast the gender analysis (women top scholars compared with % women law school profs) with the etnhnicity analysis (Jewish top scholars compared with % in overall population). I would guess Jewish representation on law school faculties vastly exceeds Jewish percentage of total population.
7.10.2007 11:11am
p. rich (mail) (www):
The questions are naive, or deliberately disingenuous. Law as practiced at the highest levels is intellectually intensive. We should expect a numerically disproportionate number of Jews and Asians among men, and a disproportionate number of men versus women. This is not and should not be surprising in any way.

To even raise the question today seems to suggest some dark unknown force operating in the shadows. Nonsense. The only force operating here is IQ distribution among and across the various groupings. If one down-selects to a very small sample on the right extreme of the distribution curve, it will be predominately male and Jewish, Asian or White. This statistical reality is not confined to law.
7.10.2007 11:25am
Eugene Volokh (www):
Frank Cross: Good point; added sentences that reflect the representations of Jews and Asians among law professors generally. The striking numbers that need explanation are the overrepresentation of Jews among law professors generally (the further overrepresentation in the list of 50 I cited is slight compared to that) and the overrepresentation of Asians among the 50 most-cited young scholars (if I recall, there is no or nearly no overrepresentation among law professors generally).
7.10.2007 11:31am
Eric Muller (www):
Eugene, my response is here.
7.10.2007 11:34am
Michelle Boardman (mail):
I have a number of theories about women in the legal academy, based on experience and wildly unscientific surveys, but we are all short on clear proof in these areas. Even if my theories are wrong, however, only good can come of debunking the myth that there is a Special Path those who become law professors walk.

Getting to law school does require some kick (encouragement or gumption or both) and money (usually loans, not family money), but once one is in law school, having educated wealthy parents is hardly necessary and probably barely helpful. To the extent there is a "network" that can help with navigating the hiring process, it isn't family or social background but support from one's professors that matters.

A small number of people do have some access to the academic network through their families but that is no bar to the rest of us. No one is born knowing how to pursue an academic career; you have to ask.
7.10.2007 11:46am
JosephSlater (mail):
Eric Muller: Nice response. It's also worth reading the bit on Feminist Law Prof that Eric links, which states:

Last Year's Federalist Society National Lawyers Convention featured few women. Out of 110 people listed on the program, looks like only 10 women participated, and 3 of them were "moderators" rather than speakers.

Again, it's not my business, but rather up to the Federalist Society to decide whether this is a problem or not.

Eugene:

Might there be some other metrics that would produce good panels that wouldn't skew so hard to older white males (and I say that as an older white male, myself)? Should the Fed Soc even investigate that possibility?
7.10.2007 11:56am
Hei Lun Chan (mail) (www):
It seems that yesterday the comments were about whether the Federalist Society is going out of its way to not invite women, whle today they're on whether they should go out of their way to invite more women than is proportionate to their numbers in law journals. Doesn't this mean that the commenters yesterday who are saying that the FedSoc doesn't discriminate against women are right, and that the worst that can be said of them is that they don't practice affirmative action? Wow, a conservative organization doesn't practice affirmative action. Is that supposed to be news?
7.10.2007 12:16pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):
Quoting Prof. Muller:


This difference between the Federalists and these other organizations should not be controversial or surprising. Declining to work against broad cultural patterns of bias against traditional American targets (racial minorities and women) is, as I have always understood it, a matter of ideological commitment for the Federalists, who view goals such as racial or gender balance as the "political correctness" of affirmative action. As Eugene, presumably speaking for the Federalist Society, rather derisively put it in the title of his opening comment in this discussion, "Here We Thought That Ideological Diversity Is Good Enough." Gender and racial diversity are among the goals worth seeking for groups like ASLH and ALEA. For the Federalists, those goals are often matters of derision. They are instances of unfairness -- a visiting on today's white men of what they view as some prior generation's sins against non-whites and women. They are unjust deviations from a color-blind and gender-blind system of pure "merit."


As a former student of the good Prof., it strikes me as kind of funny, but also troubling, that he seems to question whether there is such a thing as pure "merit". He certainly didn't seem to have these qualms when exam time came around (or, maybe, blind grading wasn't as blind as we were told).

He also has a funny way of characterizing "declining to work against broad cultural patterns of bias"--i.e., if you're not willing to engage in gender and race discrimination, however well-intentioned, you must be part of the problem. Perhaps the Federalist Society simply concludes that the best way to "work against broad cultural patterns of bias" is to ignore irrelevancies (such as the skin color or genitals of a legal scholar) and focus on the intellectual merit of a person's work.
7.10.2007 12:30pm
frankcross (mail):
To redirect slightly -- I think that gender or ethnic representation at these conferences is not really about diversity of opinion, which does not correspond directly with gender (see Mansfield's "masculine" Margaret Thatcher). Nor is it really about getting the "best" people (the invite lists seldom correspond to the citation lists mentioned above or other objective indicia of quality). Even if men dominate the "best" list, how many of those men were invited to the Bork Conference?

Rather, these conferences are about exposure and networking. They are a way for new people to become "known" and have their ideas disseminated to some prominent people. The goal of diversity in representation is, I think, an effort to respond to the notion of an "old boy's club" of insiders. Some groups, though, may not perceive this to be a great problem today and hence are more indifferent to this diversity.
7.10.2007 12:38pm
Eric Muller (www):
Ronnie Dobbs,

I don't recognize your name, so I'm either having a premature "senior moment" or you are posting under a pseudonym. In any event, you write: "Perhaps the Federalist Society simply concludes that the best way to 'work against broad cultural patterns of bias' is to ignore irrelevancies (such as the skin color or genitals of a legal scholar) and focus on the intellectual merit of a person's work."

Of course it might conclude that! Indeed, I suspect it does. But in that, the Society is quite different from most other organizations in legal academia -- and that's the thing that Eugene's post denied. I am offering no independent theory of merit here, and no particular argument for or against any organization's approach to compensating for past wrongs. I am simply disagreeing with Eugene's effort to line the Federalist Society up with the rest of legal academia.
7.10.2007 12:44pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I'd suggest that the topics of the articles probably plays the key role. Looking at the 2002 list of most cited scholars:

#15 Martha Minow (48, 16) 2520 Harvard Fem Th/Public

#26 Kathleen Sullivan (47, 27) 2120 Stanford Public

#28 Deborah Rhode (50, 30) 2030 Stanford Legal Ethics/Fem Th

# 55 Kimberle Crenshaw (43, 54) 1530 Colum/UCLA Crit Race Th

#56 Patricia Williams (51, 46) 1490 Columbia Crit Race Th

#71 Judith Resnik (52) 1350 Yale Fem Th/Procedure

#80 Carol Gilligan (n/a) 1260 NYU Fem Th

# 101 Lani Guinier (52) 1130 Harvard Public/Crit Race Th

#115 Kathryn Abrams (44) 1030 Berkeley Fem Th

#115 Sylvia Law (60) 1030 NYU Fem Th, Public

Specializing in feminist legal theory, or critical race theory, is probably not the key to getting invited to a symposium on terrorism or on Robert Bork.
7.10.2007 1:02pm
Houston Lawyer:
The rest of legal academia is obsessed with supposed industry biases against women, racial minorities, gays, the transgendered, etc. Just look at the groups represented in your local bar. It is good that at least one legal group doesn't waste its time with such mental chicken choking.
7.10.2007 1:10pm
jimbino (mail):
Under-representation of women is not confined to the law. Women are likewise missing in the upper reaches of hard science, math, engineering, haute cuisine, haute couture, music, fine arts, construction, and the crafts and trades.

What truly differentiates the law is that there are so many women in the law classroom. Some 50% of those preparing for law are women, which can't be said for engineering or plumbing. What also distinguishes law is that its practice depends so much on good writing and the gift of gab, in which women are said to surpass men in aptitude.

Larry Summers was totally right, of course. I can't explain the dearth of women in the upper reaches of law, but as a scientist I feel I have to point out some principles that have not found expression in discussions of this type:

First of all, there is no scientific basis for assuming that women are men's equal, and continuing to put square pegs in round holes may cost our society a lot of time and money and disadvantage a lot of worthy folks. The same can be said, mutatis mutandis, for Blacks vs Whites and Caucasians vs Asians.

Secondly, the affirmative action given women in the past couple of decades is predicated on the assumption that they were disadvantaged, vis a vis men, sometime in their earlier upbringing, whether by parents, schools or society. The implication of having been so disadvantaged is that they will remain, lifelong, inferior to men in their cohort. It would be very surprising to find mature women on a par with men in any pursuit, including tennis, although there they now paid the same prize for "winning."

Thirdly, with respect to the apparent superiority of Jews, it needs to be pointed out that there are a lot of Jews who aren't Jews, like Einstein, Jesus and the Twelve, St. Paul and the recently arrived Ethopians. Are Breyer and Ginsburg Jewish?

Continuing a discussion such as this without first dealing with simple definitions and simple facts amounts to a mere sharing of ignorance.
7.10.2007 1:29pm
Truth Seeker:
Since the practice law is basically an aggressive enterprise, with fighting and winners and losers, I'm surprised that many women other than those with high testosterone levels are interested in law at all.
7.10.2007 1:47pm
Truth Seeker:
It's a real pity that academia, and society itself is so obsessed with appearance over capability and quality.

Those of you who think affirmative action is so important, if you ever need heart or brain surgery, be sure to ask for a young, affirmative action surgeon, or if you're falsely charged with a crime, insist on a young, affirmative action lawyer.
7.10.2007 2:15pm
Constitutional Crisis (mail):
Since the practice law academia is basically an aggressive enterprise, with fighting and winners and losers, I'm surprised that many women other than those with high testosterone levels are interested in law academia at all.
Truth Seeker: I corrected your statement for you.

"In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the stakes at issue -- that is why academic politics are so bitter." Wallace S. Sayre, quoted in Charles Issawi, "Issawi's Laws of Social Motion" (1973).
7.10.2007 5:16pm
ronnie dobbs (mail):

Ronnie Dobbs,

I don't recognize your name, so I'm either having a premature "senior moment" or you are posting under a pseudonym. In any event, you write: "Perhaps the Federalist Society simply concludes that the best way to 'work against broad cultural patterns of bias' is to ignore irrelevancies (such as the skin color or genitals of a legal scholar) and focus on the intellectual merit of a person's work."

Of course it might conclude that! Indeed, I suspect it does. But in that, the Society is quite different from most other organizations in legal academia -- and that's the thing that Eugene's post denied. I am offering no independent theory of merit here, and no particular argument for or against any organization's approach to compensating for past wrongs. I am simply disagreeing with Eugene's effort to line the Federalist Society up with the rest of legal academia.


Prof. Muller: No need to fear early onset senioritis, Ronnie Dobbs is merely my nom de volokh.

Re: the substance of your post, are you implying that the Federalist Society is the only organization in legal academia that invites conference panelists based solely on their scholarly bona fides? If so, that strikes me as quite an admission.

Moving back to a more abstract question, I've always wondered how smart people (like you) could buy into the concept of "benign" race conscious policies as an appropriate means of redressing past wrongs. It just doesn't work on a number of levels: (1) if the policy relates to a zero sum game, such as granting places in a law school class or invitations to participate on a legal conference panel, there is no such thing as a "benign" racial preference; (2) even benign race conscious policies have the effect of treating persons as racial representatives rather than individual human beings, which is the sine qua non of racist thinking; and (3) it casts doubt on the validity of the achievements of those the policies were meant to help. To paraphrase Justice Roberts, it seems to me that the way to put an end to racial discrimination is to stop engaging in it, period.
7.10.2007 5:38pm
LM (mail):

Wow. Eugene raises the same questions Larry Summers did, and not only does he not lose his job [...].

Not so fast. I'm told that this site used to be called The Summers Conspiracy. Check back next week for updates.
7.10.2007 5:54pm
vk45:
Dave Hardy:

Nice post.
7.10.2007 7:17pm
William Newman (mail):
A somewhat similar controversy recently went 'round the software-development part of the blogosphere: see http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2007/06/20/Women for a sort of review.
7.10.2007 7:54pm
Justin (mail):
"are you implying that the Federalist Society is the only organization in legal academia that invites conference panelists based solely on their scholarly bona fides?"

The Federalist Society, like any ideological organization, obviously does no such thing.
7.10.2007 8:33pm
vukdog:


If one down-selects to a very small sample on the right extreme of the distribution curve, it will be predominately male and Jewish, Asian or White. This statistical reality is not confined to law.

I think your on to something here although I was under the impression IQ scores for men and women are nearly equal. Men tend to do better on spatial reasoning I think.

Concerning Jews, according to Charles Murray,

The imbalance continues to increase for still higher IQ's. New York City's public-school system used to administer a pencil-and-paper IQ test to its entire school population. In 1954, a psychologist used those test results to identify all 28 children in the New York public-school system with measured IQ's of 170 or higher. Of those 28, 24 were Jews.

I'm not sure if the average Israeli IQ is above average however. This could be due to a number of factors including how the law of return is administered and the presence of many other non-Jewish citizens. At any rate, I personally find the subject of IQ testing somewhat interesting, there is a lot that is not understood such as the Flynn effect. A kid who lived in my fraternity as an undergrad was apparently a member of the coveted triple 9's. Listening to extremely intelligent people talk about IQ just sometimes reminds me of the movie Zoolander.

Finally,

Thirdly, with respect to the apparent superiority of Jews, it needs to be pointed out that there are a lot of Jews who aren't Jews, like Einstein, Jesus and the Twelve, St. Paul and the recently arrived Ethopians. Are Breyer and Ginsburg Jewish?

I think this is a valid complaint but most the examples you gave would lead one to conclude the "apparent superiority" of Jews underestimates the actual situation. Conversely, I guess it might be possible that the brightest Jews, for whatever reason, disproportionably marry within the faith and that this could result in some of the differences observed.
7.10.2007 8:37pm
Jian Li:

Why, though, would this be? Women are 35% of all law professors, including 25% of all full professors. Women routinely graduate with top credentials from law schools; about 20-30% of Supreme Court clerks tend to be women. Why aren't we seeing 25-35% women among the top 20 most cited scholars?

The answer seems quite obvious. One need not go further than the properties of the Gaussian distribution to account for these facts. Between-group differences in legal experience or output or whatever, if they exist, become more pronounced as one ventures further into the extremes of said variable, as we have done by looking at only the top 20 most cited scholars.

As an illustrative example, a purely statistical consequence of the relatively small height difference between men and women is that:

"at five foot ten there are thirty men for every woman, at six feet there are two thousand men for every woman."

To put it bluntly, law professors are over five foot ten and the top 20 most cited scholars are over six feet.
7.11.2007 2:12am
Malvolio:
One need not go further than the properties of the Gaussian distribution to account for these facts. Between-group differences in legal experience or output or whatever, if they exist, become more pronounced as one ventures further into the extremes of said variable, as we have done by looking at only the top 20 most cited scholars.
In any viviparous species (that is, one where the female gestates the young inside her body), there is a powerful Darwinian incentive for the male to vary much more in phenotype (that is, in genetic variety actually expressed as an observable characteristic).

The fact is, a woman's life is worth more than a man. If the male population were radically reduced, it would be replenished in a single generation, as each remaining male could impregnate two, three, a dozen females and those females would produce equal numbers of male and female offspring. If the female population were reduced, it would take many generations for the remaining females to bear and raise enough daughters to restore the balance. (Notice that no nation has ever fielded an army comprised of significant numbers of women -- it would be demographic suicide.)

Genetic variety is helpful to a species, making it more resilient in the face of environment changes. But variety is risky to an individual -- a genetic experiment may not (indeed probably won't) succeed. Genes wisely choose to experiment predominately with the more expendable male of the species.

Yes, you will see more men at the tops of their professions, more tall men, more male leaders. You will also see more male failures, more male midgets, more male criminals.

'Twas ever thus.
7.11.2007 4:13am
theobromophile (www):
You don't happen to have information on the race and ethnicity of the women whose articles are among the most frequently cited, do you?


Is it that women are writing less, perhaps because they spend more time caring for kids? If so, how much of that is because the children's fathers refuse to do their fair share of the work, and how much of that is because the mothers value time with children more than the fathers do (and should the difference between the two causes matter)?


You could also flip this question around and ask if men are overrepresented among elite attorneys and professors because they married women who were too eager to stay at home (and thereby not be responsible for earning their share of the income). A few decades of feminism has given us the language of shared home duties, but we rarely even consider shared financial duties.

It is often a very male response to pick up the slack by achieving more - thereby obtaining the security that two incomes would have provided.
7.11.2007 4:24am
A.C.:
A lot of things have to go "right" for a person to end up at the top of any profession. ("Right" in this case means right for the profession in question -- I'm not taking a stand on broader values.) Most of them have been mentioned here: inherent ability, internal drive, social support, absence of barriers or other commitments, personal taste regarding career paths, and in some cases pure luck. It seems that the magic combination is more common in men, and in men of only a few ethnic groups at that.

But why do we think that every person who doesn't have the whole package must "fail" for the same reason? Some probably have the brains but not the drive, while others have the drive but not the brains. Some might be kept out because they want to spend time with the family, some because they want jobs that leave more time for sports, and some because it simply never occurred to them to aim at that particular target.

I submit that the world need a lot more than 50 law professors, so this is not particularly tragic. There's nothing wrong with an upper-middle talent.
7.11.2007 10:05am
A.C.:
Just for fun, I looked at the list of authors by citation count and tabulated the specialties listed for the top 50. 32 of them listed public law. Critical race theory and feminist theory were also overrated for my taste (my preferred count would have been roughly zero for each), and fields like business and environmental law seemed underrepresented relative to their importance. Tax law did not appear.

I imagine scholars in the more technical fields publish in the top specialty journals, not so much in main journals. And since fields like tax or environmental break out into such a wide range of different topics, it would probably be rare for any one article to become "the" article to cite for an entire specialty.

The whole exercise confirms my suspicion that citation counts are really silly. Fun to debate, but not much actual use.
7.11.2007 3:29pm
kderosa (www):
Eugene posits an interesting question whose answer is pedicted almost entirely by the right tail of the IQ distribution. See The Color of Meritocracy and the analysis of Harvard's incoming class as a function of IQ.

Oddly enough, the disparity in performance between males and females at high levels in the verbal realm (i.e., influential law professors) is similar to the disparity on the mathematic side as well.

Interestingly, it appears that feminist legal studies (and I'm sure there is an analogue for legal race-based studeies) seems to be working like affirmative action for law professors.
7.11.2007 4:13pm
Griffe (mail) (www):
Based on a variety of standardized-test results, including LSATs and bar-exam pass rates one can infer a male/female general
intelligence gap
of approximately 0.162 SD in favor of men, with a female/male variance ratio of 0.916. Though small, such subtle differences are magnified at the distribution extremes.

If, for example, citation frequencies followed in rank order of general intelligence, we would find that 19% of the top 50 law-school faculty cited would be women. This is somewhat more than the 12% reported by Volokh for "younger" faculty, but still within 1.3 SD of 12%.

The same considerations would predict that 3 of the 19 panelists in the Volokh thought experiment would be female — again a bit greater than that observed, but clearly in the "very small" ballpark.

In another measure of distinction, Christine Hurt
counts
approximately 18% of articles published in recent volumes of the Harvard Law Review authored by women. Based solely on general intelligence distributions, I would have predicted 21%.

In sum, the evidence suggests that the apparent gender gap in both citations and authorship is, in more than small measure, related to the gender gap in general intelligence.

Cordially,

— La Griffe du Lion
7.14.2007 5:59pm