Age and Social Background
Faculty, like other people, are distinguished by race and ethnicity, by religious background, sex, and the social class of their parents—factors which identify both experiences and orientations acquired prior to entering the professoriate and, in some cases, concrete interests of a persisting nature.
Another cluster of demographic factors includes age and academic generation. Age, and the changes in status and perspectives which accompany aging, have long been linked to variations in political behavior within the population. Young academics, specifically, are closer to the experiences of students than their older colleagues. And they are, typically, recent arrivals at the institutions where they are presently teaching, with looser ties to them. They have had less time than older faculty to move to positions of security and influence in their university and their profession. Faculty in the several age strata are also members of different academic generations, having arrived at different times in what has been the rapidly changing context of academic life. They are, potentially, of different "political generations," having come of age politically in varying climates and concerns.
The professoriate in the United States has undergone an extraordinary expansion since World War II. In 1940, about 150,000 people were employed as faculty members in the country's colleges and universities; three decades later, in the 1970s, the number exceeded 600,000. The most dramatic increases came in the late 1960s, when the professorial ranks were swelled by 150,000 in one five-year span. The number of new positions created and filled in this half decade equaled the entire number of faculty slots in 1940.
With this growth have come important changes in social origins. The