The American Sociologist

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 356–372 | Cite as

The Op-ed Sociologists: The Matthew Effect in Op-ed Publication Patterns

  • Joshua WoodsEmail author


Many sociologists have discussed the pros and cons of writing op-eds for major newspapers, but little is known about how many sociologists are actually involved in this activity, who these people are, or how this group has changed over time. Although some related studies exist, none consider the historical dynamics of op-ed writing or theorize about why some sociologists publish op-eds and others do not. This study examines op-ed publications in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post over a 32-year period (1980 to 2011). In addition to estimating the total number of publications by sociologists, it presents a descriptive portrait of the authors themselves. The study also shows that the length and number of op-eds published by sociologists depend on the authors’ sex, professional rank, university affiliation and other elements of social status. Finally, supporting Merton’s Matthew effect, the findings reveal in part how the gap between the upper and lower levels of the academic hierarchy – as it pertains to op-ed publication – has widened in the last decades.


Public sociology Op-ed writing Matthew effect Inequality 



I wish to thank Larry Nichols and Jill Woods for their interesting feedback on earlier drafts of the manuscript. They helped me develop some of the ideas in this piece.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA

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