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February 22, 2018

Law Professors Investigate Law Articles Discrimination by Political Ideology

A group of UChicago Law School professors discovered in a recent study that law journal editors’ political stances affect which articles they choose to accept.  

The research paper “Political Discrimination in the Law Review Selection Process,” authored by professors Adam Chilton, Jonathan Masur, and Kyle Rozema, also explored the motivation behind this bias. According to the study, editors are more likely to accept articles that support their own political ideology. For example, “a 1 percentage point increase in the percent of conservative editors on a board increases the percent of articles published by conservative authors by 0.34 percent.” 

Although the researchers say they expected the existence of such discrimination, they were surprised by the reason behind it. 

The researchers argued that one possible explanation for the phenomenon is “taste-based discrimination.” This hypothesis posits that editors are willing to choose any articles of the same ideology, regardless of quality, in order to meet their political “tastes.” 

However, the research showed that the editors are driven by “information-based discrimination.”  

Chilton explained that “editors both select more articles and [select] higher quality articles from authors that share their ideology. That is, editors aren’t picking articles with shared ideology just because they want to promote articles with that ideology, which is probably what a lot of people would have expected.” 

Chilton also told The Maroon that “the results of this article do suggest the need to study the role that political ideology plays in other article selection processes, specifically in peer-reviewed journals.” However, he added that the group of researchers is “not yet ready to endorse any changes to the article selection process.” 

Chilton confirmed the group’s continued focus on this “ongoing” research. They are currently working on other projects related to bias in law journals.  

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