Social Scientists' Wages Struggle to Keep Pace With Inflation

May 17, 2011

Faculty salaries in four social-science disciplines failed to keep pace with inflation from the 2009-10 to the 2010-11 academic years, according to a report released on Tuesday by the American Sociological Association.

The report draws on data from the National Faculty Salary Survey, an annual project of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources. The public summaries of survey results from that group do not typically break down salary data across the social sciences, but the sociology association's new report does so.

From 2009-10 to 2010-11, the median salary for sociologists rose by 0.7 percent. But after inflation is taken into account, the picture looks worse. In constant 2010 dollars, sociologists' median salary fell by 0.9 percent. The story is similar for anthropologists (who saw a 1.5-percent decline), economists (0.7-percent decline), and political scientists (1.3-percent decline).

Over a longer period of time, from 2005-6 through 2010-11, only economists saw much salary growth. In constant 2010 dollars, economists' median salary grew by 5 percent, sociologists' by 1.4 percent, and political scientists' by 0.7 percent. Anthropologists' median salary fell by 1.4 percent over the period.

The report also found that:

  • For sociologists at the assistant-professor rank, private institutions were the place to be this year. At private institutions, their median salary grew by 0.9 percent in constant dollars from 2009-10 to 2010-11, better than sociologists of any other rank. At public institutions, by contrast, assistant professors fared worse than any other rank, with their median salary falling by 2.3 percent.
  • In 2010-11, economists at public institutions had a slightly higher median salary than their colleagues at private institutions ($89,942 versus $89,668). In the other three fields, salaries were considerably higher at private institutions than at publics.