The dynamics of faculty hiring networks
Department of Computer Science, University of Colorado Boulder, Engineering Drive, 80309, Boulder, CO, USA
2 BioFrontiers Institute, University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado Ave., 80303, Boulder, CO, USA
3 Santa Fe Institute, Hyde Park Road, 87501, Santa Fe, NM, USA
Accepted: 30 August 2021
Published online: 15 September 2021
Faculty hiring networks—who hires whose graduates as faculty—exhibit steep hierarchies, which can reinforce both social and epistemic inequalities in academia. Understanding the mechanisms driving these patterns would inform efforts to diversify the academy and shed new light on the role of hiring in shaping which scientific discoveries are made. Here, we investigate the degree to which structural mechanisms can explain hierarchy and other network characteristics observed in empirical faculty hiring networks. We study a family of adaptive rewiring network models, which reinforce institutional prestige within the hierarchy in five distinct ways. Each mechanism determines the probability that a new hire comes from a particular institution according to that institution’s prestige score, which is inferred from the hiring network’s existing structure. We find that structural inequalities and centrality patterns in real hiring networks are best reproduced by a mechanism of global placement power, in which a new hire is drawn from a particular institution in proportion to the number of previously drawn hires anywhere. On the other hand, network measures of biased visibility are better recapitulated by a mechanism of local placement power, in which a new hire is drawn from a particular institution in proportion to the number of its previous hires already present at the hiring institution. These contrasting results suggest that the underlying structural mechanism reinforcing hierarchies in faculty hiring networks is a mixture of global and local preference for institutional prestige. Under these dynamics, we show that each institution’s position in the hierarchy is remarkably stable, due to a dynamic competition that overwhelmingly favors more prestigious institutions. These results highlight the reinforcing effects of a prestige-based faculty hiring system, and the importance of understanding its ramifications on diversity and innovation in academia.
Key words: Faculty hiring / Prestige hierarchy / Inequality / Network modeling / Hiring mechanism
© The Author(s) 2021
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