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International Representation in US Social-Science Journals

Abstract

In this paper we examine the publication of international articles in the two leading journals in sociology, the American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology. The most prominent journals in several other social-science fields, namely economics, demography, political science and education, are included for purposes of comparison. “International” is defined alternatively with respect to topics and authors. The journal with the least representation of international topics is the American Educational Research Journal, followed by the two leading sociology journals. The journal Demography is also more international in focus than are ASR and AJS. Economics, as represented by the American Economic Review, and political science, as represented by the American Political Science Review, are the most international of this set of fields. The rank order of journals follows largely the same pattern when the focus shifts to international authorship rather than international subject matter. Foreign first authors are not uncommon, but many of these authors received their PhD degrees from a university based in the US or held a faculty position in the US. Co-authorship teams are most likely to be all US authors, but cross-national teams are not at all uncommon. Our findings suggest that a disproportionate focus on the U.S. may limit the sociological imagination and result in an impoverished sociological toolkit that is ill-suited for understanding the global reality of deeply diverse and divided societies. In addition, the opportunity structure available to sociologists around the globe is somewhat skewed. Foreign sociologists who rely upon publication in US journals for career advancement may find themselves at a disadvantage.

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Notes

  1. Traag and Fransen (2016) have constructed a visual representation of the content of quantitative and qualitative articles in ASR, AJS and several other sociological journals that demonstrates the differences in intellectual orientation between these two methodological approaches.

  2. Brown and Gilmartin report that only 4% of ASR and AJS articles in 1965 and 1966 were on the topic of race and ethnic relations, down from 5% in 1940 and 1941. Jacobs (2007) reports that only 3 of the 379 most cited ASR articles had African-American authors. Steinberg (2007, p. 58)) notes that there were only 4 black authors among the 750 authors in AJS between 1916 and 1940.

  3. Specifically, articles from the June and December issues of AER were chosen for every year; the August issue was added in 2013, 2014 and 2015, and the April issue was added in 2015 and 2016

  4. If we excluded theoretical papers from the denominator, this would increase the fraction of US articles in AER and APSR (as well as the British journal Sociology, but would only slightly affect the results for ASR and AJS.

  5. Our methodology differs from that employed by Zougris (2019). In our approach a report of a study of British families published in Sociology would be an ethnocentric paper even if it used similar approach to a study of American families published in the US journal. In other words, we focus on data sources rather than Zougris’ focus on national differences in research topics.

  6. This was suggested by Yu Xie in a personal communication.

  7. This, perhaps, does not include the major European centers, such as France and Germany, where classical sociology first emerged.

  8. The cited phrase was taken from the title of Mara Loveman’s article, “Travelling abroad with a map of a made-in-the-USA neo-liberal city”, written in response to the work of Loic Waquant. It appeared in Ethnic and Racial Studies, 2014, 37(10), 1753–1760.

  9. To be sure, we clearly distinguish between “liberal remedy” in terms of moral vision, and “neoliberalism”, which has been a major target of contemporary sociological criticism. By the former, we mean liberal justice and human rights in their pure forms as ultimate cures for all types of social inequality.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the Israeli National Science Foundation (Grant No. 1678/15). The authors are grateful for the excellent research assistance of Elinore Avni, and the helpful comments from the editor and anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Jerry A. Jacobs.

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Jacobs, J.A., Mizrachi, N. International Representation in US Social-Science Journals. Am Soc 51, 215–239 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12108-020-09440-6

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Keywords

  • Academic stratification
  • Careers in sociology
  • Ethnocentrism in sociology
  • Generalizability of knowledge
  • International sociology
  • Sociology journals