Preliminary Report on the MLA Job Information List, 2017–18

For the sixth year in a row, the number of positions advertised in the MLA Job Information List (JIL) decreased. The decline for 2017–18 was, however, smaller than it was in 2016–17, when both editions, English and languages other than English, suffered a drop of 11.5%. In 2017–18 the number of English positions went from 837 to 828 (a 1.1% decline), and the number of positions in languages other than English went from 808 to 770 (a 4.7% decline).

Figure 1 shows the trends for the number of positions announced in each edition across the forty-three years from 1975–76 to 2017–18. The declines of the past six years bring the number of advertised positions to below the level reached after the severe drop between 2007–08 and 2009–10. Positions in the English edition declined by 54.7% between the prerecession academic year 2007–08 and the academic year 2017–18, and positions in the edition for languages other than English declined by an almost identical percentage, 54.2%. After the recession, the years 2010–11 and 2011–12 saw modest increases in the number of positions: English positions rose by 8.2% in 2010–11 and by 3.8% in 2011–12, and positions in languages other than English rose by 7.1% and 3.0%. But as figure 1 shows, the number of positions never approached the prerecession peaks of 1,826 positions in the English edition and 1,680 positions in the edition for languages other than English. English positions have been below the historical threshold of 1,000 positions for three years now, and positions for languages other than English have been below it for four years.

Fig. 1. Number of Positions Advertised in the MLA Job Information List, 1975–76 to 2017–18. The figure shows a recent downward trend for both English and foreign languages in the number of positions advertised in the JIL.

In addition to reading JIL listings to count the number of positions announced, staff members in the MLA’s office of programs perform a machine analysis of the JIL database to develop information on the number and characteristics of the ads departments place. The number of ads is always somewhat smaller than the number of positions the ads announce, since some ads announce more than one position. In 2017–18 the English edition carried 713 ads, and the edition for languages other than English carried 712.

Tables 1 and 2 show the breakdown of ads by rank—instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, professor, and postdoctoral fellow (this last rank has been counted since 2013–14). (You will need to use the scroll bar at the bottom of the tables to view all the columns.) The tables cover two decades and show the changes in both number and percentage of ads for each rank. Ads marked solely “assistant professor” dominate the listings. In English, 58.2% of ads in 2017–18 were for assistant professors, up slightly from 54.6% in the previous year (table 1). In languages other than English, 48.5% of ads in 2017–18 were for assistant professors, down from 50.9% in the previous year—and the lowest percentage in two decades (table 2). The highest percentage of assistant professor ads was reached in 2002–03 for both English (67.1%) and languages other than English (60.9%).

Table 3 shows the number and percentage of ads in the JIL’s English edition, broken out by the index terms for tenure status and rank that advertisers have selected for listings placed since 2007–08. Table 4 shows the equivalent information for listings in the edition for languages other than English. The tables quantify the scale of the contraction in academic job opportunities in the field, especially in tenure-track assistant professor positions, that began in 2008–09 and has persisted since. In the English edition, the share of all tenure-track ads taken together has fallen from 75.6% to 62.0%, while the share of ads for positions classified as non-tenure-track has grown from 21.4% to 36.0%. In the edition for languages other than English, the share of all tenure-track ads taken together has fallen from 59.5% to 46.9%, while the share of ads for positions classified as non-tenure-track has grown from 37.8% to 50.7%.

A full report on the 2017–18 JIL and trends in the ads will be published later this year.

Natalia Lusin

Table 1. Number and Percentage of Ads in the English JIL Indexed for Various Ranks, 2000–01 to 2017–18

wdt_ID Rank 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
1 Asst. prof. 1,025 1,006 963 865 956 914 1,005 992 714 562 643 640 608 573 530 482 395 415
2 63.20% 65.50% 67.10% 63.50% 63.90% 61.70% 63.90% 60.20% 58.10% 58.30% 61.70% 58.90% 60.00% 61.70% 60.00% 58.60% 54.60% 58.20%
3 Instructor or asst. prof. 44 30 36 40 35 46 37 34 18 25 27 23 11 7 15 9 6 7
4 2.70% 2.00% 2.50% 2.90% 2.30% 3.10% 2.40% 2.10% 1.50% 2.60% 2.60% 2.10% 1.10% 0.80% 1.70% 1.10% 0.80% 1.00%
5 Asst. prof. or assoc. prof. 123 105 96 122 122 121 121 125 105 49 63 90 72 59 46 39 48 32
6 7.60% 6.80% 6.70% 9.00% 8.10% 8.20% 7.70% 7.60% 8.60% 5.10% 6.00% 8.30% 7.10% 6.40% 5.20% 4.70% 6.60% 4.50%
7 Asst. prof., assoc. prof., or prof. 64 79 52 44 53 60 53 70 55 41 24 26 31 23 29 28 29 26
8 3.90% 5.10% 3.60% 3.20% 3.50% 4.00% 3.40% 4.30% 4.50% 4.30% 2.30% 2.40% 3.10% 2.50% 3.30% 3.40% 4.00% 3.60%
9 Other combinations including asst. prof. 17 10 7 8 13 13 9 12 8 9 9 8 4 5 11 4 7 9
10 1.00% 0.70% 0.50% 0.60% 0.90% 0.90% 0.60% 0.70% 0.70% 0.90% 0.90% 0.70% 0.40% 0.50% 1.20% 0.50% 1.00% 1.30%

Table 2. Number and Percentage of Ads in the Foreign Language JIL Indexed for Various Ranks, 2000–01 to 2017–18

wdt_ID Rank 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
1 Asst. prof. 791 739 765 667 689 686 791 780 635 452 503 510 535 483 447 431 382 345
2 57.40% 59.00% 60.90% 56.70% 55.20% 55.50% 55.10% 51.20% 56.00% 49.50% 51.10% 49.70% 52.20% 51.10% 50.70% 51.50% 50.90% 48.50%
3 Instructor or asst. prof. 93 71 54 75 72 69 65 69 52 46 53 53 48 30 30 19 11 19
4 6.70% 5.70% 4.30% 6.40% 5.80% 5.60% 4.50% 4.50% 4.60% 5.00% 5.40% 5.20% 4.70% 3.20% 3.40% 2.30% 1.50% 2.70%
5 Asst. prof. or assoc. prof. 65 62 76 65 76 61 73 86 64 36 53 52 41 47 29 31 27 24
6 4.70% 4.90% 6.10% 5.50% 6.10% 4.90% 5.10% 5.70% 5.60% 3.90% 5.40% 5.10% 4.00% 5.00% 3.30% 3.70% 3.60% 3.40%
7 Asst. prof., assoc. prof., or prof. 42 47 34 30 42 49 42 58 36 26 11 26 28 21 22 27 22 20
8 3.00% 3.80% 2.70% 2.60% 3.40% 4.00% 2.90% 3.80% 3.20% 2.80% 1.10% 2.50% 2.70% 2.20% 2.50% 3.20% 2.90% 2.80%
9 Other combinations including asst. prof. 17 8 10 7 8 9 12 17 8 8 8 4 6 5 7 7 6 7
10 1.20% 0.60% 0.80% 0.60% 0.60% 0.70% 0.80% 1.10% 0.70% 0.90% 0.80% 0.40% 0.60% 0.50% 0.80% 0.80% 0.80% 1.00%

Table 3. Number and Percentage of Ads Indexed for Tenure Status and Rank in the English JIL, 2007–08 to 2017–18

wdt_ID Tenure Status and Rank 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
1 Tenure-track asst. prof. 879 645 469 541 541 513 470 449 402 320 328
2 53.30% 52.50% 48.70% 51.90% 49.80% 50.60% 50.60% 50.70% 48.80% 44.10% 46.00%
3 Tenure-track asst. prof. and another rank 192 151 78 92 109 98 73 75 63 72 58
4 11.70% 12.30% 8.10% 8.80% 10.00% 9.70% 7.90% 8.50% 7.70% 9.90% 8.10%
5 Other tenure-track positions 175 129 81 96 107 102 74 70 87 69 56
6 10.60% 10.50% 8.40% 9.20% 9.80% 10.10% 8.00% 7.90% 10.60% 9.50% 7.90%
7 All tenure-track positions 1,246 925 628 729 757 713 617 594 552 461 442
8 75.60% 75.30% 65.10% 70.00% 69.60% 70.30% 66.50% 67.10% 67.10% 63.60% 62.00%
9 Non-tenure-track positions 353 255 304 278 293 277 272 278 261 247 257
10 21.40% 20.80% 31.50% 26.70% 27.00% 27.30% 29.30% 31.40% 31.70% 34.10% 36.00%

Table 4. Number and Percentage of Ads Indexed for Tenure Status and Rank in the Foreign Language JIL, 2007–08 to 2017-18

wdt_ID Tenure Status and Rank 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17 2017-18
1 Tenure-track asst. prof. 635 518 322 384 405 393 371 326 320 251 235
2 41.70% 45.70% 35.30% 39.00% 39.40% 38.30% 39.30% 37.00% 38.20% 33.50% 33.00%
3 Tenure-track asst. prof. and another rank 140 97 56 70 74 69 65 50 59 45 44
4 9.20% 8.60% 6.10% 7.10% 7.20% 6.70% 6.90% 5.70% 7.00% 6.00% 6.20%
5 Other tenure-track positions 131 80 69 80 89 79 60 65 66 51 55
6 8.60% 7.10% 7.60% 8.10% 8.70% 7.70% 6.30% 7.40% 7.90% 6.80% 7.70%
7 All tenure-track positions 906 695 447 534 568 541 496 441 445 347 334
8 59.50% 61.30% 49.00% 54.20% 55.30% 52.80% 52.50% 50.10% 53.20% 46.30% 46.90%
9 Non-tenure-track positions 576 394 437 420 430 453 420 424 384 388 361
10 37.80% 34.70% 47.90% 42.60% 41.90% 44.20% 44.40% 48.20% 45.90% 51.70% 50.70%

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