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Researchers from the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Santa Fe Institute released new research detailing the socioeconomic status of tenure-track faculty in the United States. After surveying more than 7,200 faculty members in Ph.D.-granting departments across eight disciplines, researchers estimated using ZIP code data that median childhood household income for professors was 23.7 percent higher than that of the general public. Faculty members surveyed were 25 times more likely to have a parent with a Ph.D. About half of faculty surveyed reported at least one parent with a master's degree or higher. About 22 percent reported at least one parent with a Ph.D. Among faculty at “top-ranked” institutions, researchers said, the share of faculty whose parents had at least one Ph.D. rose to about a third.

“The distributions of parents' highest education are similar across the disciplines surveyed, suggesting that despite disciplinary differences in scholarship, funding, and culture, having a parent with a Ph.D. is universally advantageous for becoming a professor,” researchers wrote. “Our results suggest that the professoriate is, and has remained, accessible mainly to the socioeconomically privileged. This lack of socioeconomic diversity is likely to deeply shape the type of scholarship and scholars that faculty produce and train.”

The paper was posted on a preprint server and has not been peer reviewed.