Nicholas Kristof’s infamous takedown of professors for marginalizing themselves included this dismissive description of sociology’s dismal record of dismissal:
Many academic disciplines also reduce their influence by neglecting political diversity. Sociology, for example, should be central to so many national issues, but it is so dominated by the left that it is instinctively dismissed by the right.
There is a nice roundup of responses to Kristof by Jessie Daniels here. I have just two small things to add. First, “instinctively” is clearly the wrong word here. I might say “reflexively,” but really it’s “conveniently,” and that convenience partly results from stereotypes like this.
Second, much of what sociologists do to bring their expertise to the public (besides, of course, teach) is not part of such an explicit left-right debate in which rational policymakers and economists casually dismiss hysterical leftist sociologists. Rather, it’s part of the general work of bringing research results and interpretation to the public, largely through the media, including, occasionally, the New York Times.
Many of us in our own corners of the discipline feel that the NYT and the other big media always quotes the same small set of experts in our areas: (e.g., Andrew Cherlin on family trends). So I was surprised to see that my Lexis-Nexis search for “sociology or sociologist” within 10 words of “professor” in the NYT in 2013 turned up 124 sociology professors quoted in news articles, reviews, or op-eds (I excluded letter writers and the subjects of wedding announcements and obituaries).
These are them:
William Julius Wilson
Without doing a whole content analysis, it looks to me that most (or at least a lot) of these stories were not quoting sociologists as part of an ideological debate, but rather as experts describing developments in their subject areas.
In addition, the Times published op-eds by at least 15 sociology professors in 2013:
I’m sure there are better ways to do this more accurately, but you can consider this a conservative estimate, since it omits those sociologists who go by another identification (like Brad “intact, biological marriage is still the gold standard” Wilcox, who sells himself as Director of the National Marriage Project), those randomly described as sociologists (such as Charles Murray), people who are said to “teach sociology,” and graduate students. These are just people specifically described as professors.
You don’t have to be an economist to know that economists are quoted more. But is this a lot of representation? I don’t know.