The Hotties and the Notties

(This post is by Henry, but b/c of a technical glitch is being published by John Sides, who is entirely innocent of any blame for it.)

Continuing our series of serious inquiries into whether academia in general, and political science in particular is a sexy profession, we actually have Real Social Scientific Data that we can bring to bear on this topic.[1] In 2006, James Felton, Peter T. Koper, John Mitchell and Michael Stinson have conducted research that sought to establish, inter alia how perceived hotness of professors affected their RateMyProfessors evaluations for teaching quality. As part of this exercise, Felton et al. ranked (Table 2 in their paper) the relative hotness quotients of 36 different academic disciplines. My estimable colleague Professor Sides has prepared a nice graph of the data (see below).


Three important research findings leap out from this picture.

First, that academic disciplines are, without exception, more “not” than “hot.” When adjusted positive and negative hotness scores are totted up against each other, no discipline is even above 0. Thus, the main hypothesis of Careerbuilder et al. (2009) is decisively refuted.

Second, the above proviso aside, political scientists are pretty damn hot in comparative terms. We rank as number 5, trailing only languages, law, religion and criminal justice. From eyeballing the data, it looks as though there is a minor discontinuity right after political science, where the hotness lurches down a notch, and another, more significant one between psychology (at number 10) and finance (at number 11).

Third, economists are, without any jot, tittle, scintilla or iota of doubt or ambiguity, the notties rather than the hotties of the social sciences (coming 30th out of 36). Suck on it.

fn1. Real Social Scientific Data is a term of art here, which covers the broad category of ‘statistics that are sufficiently entertaining that I really don’t want to look at them too hard.’ This understanding of data is commonly applied (especially in the popular press, but often enough in academia too), although rarely acknowledged in explicit terms.

20 Responses to The Hotties and the Notties

  1. Greg Sanders January 21, 2009 at 11:22 am #

    I wonder if they controlled for the male-female ratio of professors.

  2. Anonymous Coward January 21, 2009 at 11:27 am #

    This is just an outlier effect. I happen to be a political scientist, and my startlingly well-formed body, sparkling wit, irresistible charms, and complete lack of egotism are dragging our otherwise-fugly discipline’s average substantially towards the hot.

  3. John Sides January 21, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Lee, what did I tell you about posting comments under pseudonyms?

  4. Joel January 21, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

    speaking of posting under pseudonyms, i note that this post, with the “John Sides” byline, refers to “my estimable colleague Professor Sides.”

    hmm? (we learn close blog reading techniques down here.)

  5. John Sides January 21, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    Joel, Henry Farrell wrote the post but seems to want to give me all the credit. He’s just that generous. He’s added a little to the post to reflect that.

  6. King Politics January 21, 2009 at 12:21 pm #

    That we’re hotter than the jocks in Athletics really says something.

  7. Julie January 21, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    Isn’t there an entire Facebook page dedicated to the estimable Professor Sides’ butt? Maybe he joins Anonymous Coward driving in the outlier effect.

  8. BC January 21, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    Just to refute you on the Careerbuilder claim… they say professors are hot, essentially, because we are smart–and smart is HOTT!! And who doesn’t love hearing, in one of our many languages, about statistical significance.

  9. Andrew January 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    I’m sure you realize that statistics is not there because we’re so damn hot we’re off the graph!

  10. safely anon January 21, 2009 at 2:23 pm #

    So economists are smarter but less hot? Seems right:

    n=1 :

  11. A. Nonny. Mouse January 21, 2009 at 2:38 pm #

    I wonder if they controlled for the ratio of male/female profs to male/female students. Something like women’s studies is likely to be taught by a high percentage of women profs to a high percentage of women students (based on my experience, anyway), hence low ‘hot’ ratings. Without such a control, I suspect this graph is useless.

  12. Anonymous Coward January 21, 2009 at 4:19 pm #

    Nonsense; it is eminently useful for rubbing into economists’ ugly mugs or applying to a paper sack so you don’t have to look at their shocking disfigurements any more.

  13. Lee Sigelman January 21, 2009 at 4:56 pm #

    Just to clarify:

    I am NOT Anonymous Coward. Often cowardly, but never anonymously.

  14. jacob January 22, 2009 at 9:49 am #

    A. Nonny, Mouse, is being a bit heteronormative–particularly an issue in the example he cites. It may be true that Women’s Studies classes are disproportionately taught and taken by women, but surely those women are also disproportionately gay.

    As a historian, I am rather horrified by the low score we have, and can only assume that it’s because the chart somehow does not take into account the construction of beauty standards over time and is somehow imposing an ahistorical, static idea of “sexiness.”

  15. Justin January 22, 2009 at 10:58 am #

    This has sparked much conversation in my division (political science and criminal justice departments). There was even an “in-hallway” comparison held by a couple of the faculty.
    One astute professor noted that there is an inverse relationship between the perceived usefulness of the discipline and the hotness rating. We could also consider the pool of respondents taking the classes. Thus, Women’s / Ethnic studies rating may be explained by social desirability bias (the stigma of reporting hotness where the acknowledgment of hotness is socially unacceptable). Alternatively, has anyone looked at a Chemist lately?

  16. Rebekah Tromble January 22, 2009 at 12:37 pm #

    I would venture to guess that languages fare so much better than all the other disciplines because grad students tend to teach those courses more than any others.

  17. anon January 23, 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    Depnding on how its handled, hallway discussions on this topic could head some people into an HR workshop (think “The Office”). Thank goodness lawyers don’t visit poli sci blogs.

    [P.S. This post is (mostly) tongue in cheek.]

  18. Cakey January 23, 2009 at 3:51 pm #

    It’s no mistake that womyn’s studies profs are so unattractive. Feminism was invented so that unattractive womyn could try to obtain some power. Beautiful women are the most powerful beings on earth. They get whatever they want.

  19. jenny January 24, 2009 at 3:16 pm #

    Economists might not be hot, but are they funnier?,9171,1871911,00.html

    It’s hard to imagine this going on at APSA.


  1. Wednesday afternoon links | AEIdeas - September 18, 2013

    […] 5. CHART: College professor “hotness” quotients for 36 different academic disciplines. […]