Mentions of Race, Gender, and Inequality in Academic Articles

Philip Cohen published an interesting post using Web of Science data to show how academics talk about inequality in the 1980s to present. Phil looks at variations of the phrase “race, class, gender”, and the rise of “social inequality” over “social stratification”, in the titles of journal articles. 

Here’s another slice at the topic. I used JStor’s Data for Research database (all articles in their collection) and restricted the sample to research articles published between 1980-2012.** Then I looked at the percentage of articles that mention inequality** that also mention: race, sex/gender, or both race and sex/gender.*** Here’s the resulting graph:

Percentage of research articles that mention inequality in JStor that also mention race, sex or gender, or both.

Percentage of research articles that mention social, economic, income, or wealth inequality in JStor that also mention race, sex or gender, or both.

Obviously, mentioning inequality, race, or gender anywhere in the text of an article is a much lower threshold than mentioning things in the title. So, this slice at the corpus of academic research is more like a lower bound on interest in intersectional inequalities, while Phil is looking at something like an upper bound (articles that go so far as to include those terms in their title). Also, here I am looking only at those articles that mention inequality of some sort to see which kinds of inequality are mentioned (“inequality articles” for short). Given that, we can see two clear trends: inequality articles are much more likely to mention both race and sex/gender in recent years (doubling from around 17% in 1980 to around 34% in 2012). In the meantime, discussion of race and gender in general have also increased significantly (from 33% of inequality articles mentioning sex or gender in 1980 to 59% in 2012; and 29% to 45% for race).

With this data, we can also compare the observed co-occurrence of race and sex/gender to the rate we’d expect if mentions were independent. That is, given that 33% of inequality articles mentioned race and 29% mentioned in sex/gender in 1980, we’d expect about 9% to mention both simply by chance. The actual rate is 17%. For 2012, the “expected” rate based on independence is about 27% compared to an observed rate of 34%. So, the overall increase in articles mentioning race and sex/gender is pretty consistent with the increase in mentions of the two terms separately.

What do you all think?

EDIT: Inspired by Philip’s comment, I made another simple chart looking at research articles in JStor. Here I look at the percentage of article that use both the terms “racial inequality” and “gender inequality” as a percentage of articles using either term. Here’s a plot of a 2-year moving average of those results.

JStor research articles mentioning "racial inequality" and "gender inequaliy" as a percentage of articles mentioning either, 1990-2012.

JStor research articles mentioning “racial inequality” and “gender inequaliy” as a percentage of articles mentioning either, 1990-2012.

I restricted the time period here to 1990-2012 (1989-2012 considering the 2 year average) because of sharp uptick in gender as a term in the 1980s and the relatively small N of any mentions of gender inequality from the 1980s (i.e. just 2 articles in 1980). Mostly, not a lot of trend here. Are these the right terms though?

* JStor’s database excludes many publications for a couple years after publication, so the sample size drops considerably for the last two years.
** Specifically, any of the phrases “social inequality”, “economic inequality”, “wealth inequality”, or “income inequality.”
*** In the early part of the 1980s, “gender” was still much less commonly used than sex (cf. nGrams). I use “sex/gender” to refer to articles containing at least one of sex or gender.



  1. Nice. I guess while we’re at it, we could look at uses of the terms “racial inequality” and “gender inequality.”

  2. jtuttle2

     /  October 29, 2014

    Why isn’t social class included here?