Easy expectations and racial bias in economics instructor ratings
Junaid B. Jahangir MacEwan University, Canada
MacEwan University, Canada

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This paper uses Rate My Professors (RMP) data for instructors at two Canadian universities to investigate the determinants of economics instructor ratings, including the impact of easy grading expectations (or “easy expectations”) and various potential student biases related to ethnicity, gender, and accent. Regression analysis, including random effects panel data analysis and multilevel modelling, indicates that easier courses with lower difficulty levels and higher grades awarded to students are significant determinants of better instructor ratings. In addition, lower difficulty levels and higher grades tend to be associated with contract instructors compared to full-time instructors. The effect of instructor accent was insignificant. Our findings suggest that the ratings of economics instructors suffer from the same biases related to course difficulty, possibly attributable to “easy expectations,” and racial bias, as has been generally found in student ratings across academic disciplines. To the extent that instructor ratings are driven by “easy expectations” and racial bias, and that RMP ratings are consistent with formal university instructor ratings, the case for basing promotions, tenure decisions, and salary raises on average instructor ratings is weak.

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