Gender Representation in the American Politics Canon: An Analysis of Core Graduate Syllabi
by Sean M. Diament, Northwestern University, Adam J. Howat, Northwestern University and Matthew J. Lacombe, Northwestern University
Core graduate-level seminars, in many ways, establish the “canon” literature for scholars entering a discipline. In the study of American Politics, the contents of this canon vary widely across departments and instructors, with important implications for the perspectives to which graduate students are exposed. At a basic level, the demographic characteristics of the authors whose work is assigned can have a major impact on the diversity (or lack of diversity) of viewpoints presented in these introductory courses. Using a unique dataset derived from a survey of core American Politics graduate seminars at highly ranked universities, this project assesses the gender diversity of the authors whose research is currently taught, overall and within a comprehensive list of topics and subtopics. We additionally assess the “substantive representation” of women (and other underrepresented groups) within the American Politics canon by examining the frequency with which gender, racial, and other forms of identity politics are taught in these introductory courses. We find substantial gaps in the representation of women in terms of both authorship and the substantive content of the readings. Further, we find that this gender bias is likely improving, but is far from eliminated.