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Trends in the Job Market for Tenured Philosophers


The pandemic has been terrible for junior hiring in philosophy in the United States. Over at the Philosophers’ Cocoon, for example, Marcus Arvan reports finding only 118 junior-level tenure-track jobs in philosophy in PhilJobs, the dominant outlet for listing university and four-year college jobs in the Anglophone world — down from 224 last year, a 47% one-year decline.

I wondered if the market for tenured philosophers has been similarly bad.

Since senior hires are often a result of private inquiries rather than though advertisements in PhilJobs, I chose not to rely on PhilJobs as a source. Instead, I looked at the senior moves reported on Leiter Reports and Daily Nous. Since 2003, Brian Leiter has attempted to report every senior faculty move into or out of a M.A. or Ph.D. program in philosophy in the Anglophone world. Starting in 2014, Justin Weinberg has similarly announced faculty moves at Daily Nous. Their numbers are similar, but Leiter Reports appears to be slightly more complete, as well as going farther back in time, so I rely on it here. [See Note 1 for methodological details]

Here are the results to date. Some late-announced senior hires might still come from the 2020-2021 hiring season.

[click to enlarge and clarify]

As you can see from the figure, although this year has been a weak year for Leiter-announced senior moves — 27 so far total, with a few more possibly to come — it is comparable to several previous years: 2010-2011 had 28, 2014-2015 had 30, and 2015-2016 had 29.

Looking at the figure as a whole, the best year was 2004-2005 with 71 announced moves, and in general the early 2000s were strong. Senior hiring declined heading into the 2008 recession and only partly recovered in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 before falling again.

I thought it would be interesting to compare with the trends in junior hiring. For junior hiring, I relied on Marcus Arvan’s analyses of the tenure-track job market, starting with the 2015-2016 academic year, as announced on Philosophers’ Cocoon. (For some reason, Arvan appears not to have reported on the 2018-2019 academic year.) The following figure shows the same data for senior hiring alongside Arvan’s data on junior hiring. I’ve put it on a logarithmic scale to better show proportionality.

[click to enlarge and clarify]

Unsurprisingly, the trends in senior and junior hiring approximately match across these several years, though junior hiring appears to have been somewhat harder hit by the pandemic than senior hiring.

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[1] For Leiter Reports, I downloaded all posts with the “philosophy updates” tag, then hand-counted those that newly reported faculty moves. Some posts reported multiple moves, in which case each individual who moved was counted. I used August 1 as the cutoff for the new academic year, using the date of the announcement rather than the date of the actual move. Thus, for example, the 2019-2020 academic year includes all faculty moves announced from August 1, 2019, through July 31, 2020. For Daily Nous, I used a similar procedure, relying on the “faculty moves” tag, and drawing on the Wayback Machine’s internet archive for moves more than about two years old. Most moves announced on one blog are also announced on the other, though some seem to miss one or the other blog. For example, Michael Stuart’s from Geneva to National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University was announced on Daily Nous on May 6, 2021, but not announced on Leiter Reports (perhaps because neither university is in a majority Anglophone country). Conversely, Michelle Kosch’s intention to return to Cornell from Johns Hopkins was announced on Leiter Reports on March 29, 2021, but not on Daily Nous.

Despite these occasional differences, the totals by year are similar for the two sites. For example, in 2020-2021, Leiter announced 27 moves and Weinberg 20; in 2019-2020, Leiter announced 46 and Weinberg 45; and in 2018-2019, Leiter announced 32 moves and Weinberg 30. The earliest announced hire in 2003 was September 17, so it’s possible that a few very early hires are not included in the 2003-2004 academic year total.

The large majority of announced moves were for senior positions. When it was clear that the announcement was for a junior position not near tenurability, e.g., a postdoctoral position, I excluded it from the count. Leiter Reports also used to commonly report when philosophers received outside job offers, before it was known whether those offers would be accepted, adding either an update or a new post when the outcome of the offer was known. This added some complication to the hand-coding which might have introduced a small amount of additional error.



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