The State of the Humanities


The American Academy of Arts & Sciences recently released the Humanities Indicators Prototype, which is the result of a decade-long collaborative study of the state of the humanities in the United States. In a nutshell, the Academy “hope[s] that the Humanities Indicators Prototype will equip researchers and policymakers, universities, foundations, museums, libraries, humanities councils and other public institutions with better statistical tools for answering basic questions about primary and secondary humanities education, undergraduate and graduate education in the humanities, the humanities workforce, levels and sources of program funding, public understanding and impact of the humanities, and other areas of concern in the humanities community.”

Here are a few of the findings based primarily on 2004 statistics:

Overall, between 10% and 12% of all B.A. degrees are in the humanities, behind the social sciences and business.

2.6% of B.A. degrees in the humanities fall under the category of Religion. English was the highest with 31.7%. History posted 17.7%.

Over 70% of all B.A. degrees in the humanities go to “white/non-Hispanic” students.

Over 60% of all B.A. degrees in the humanities go to women.

Over 40% of all undergraduate students take U.S. History survey courses. 15% take General/Comparative Religion courses.

Average GRE scores for humanities majors: 554 verbal/567 quantitative. For Religion majors: 556/594. For History majors: 542/554. Classics and Philosophy majors posted the highest scores.

Less than 5% of all master’s degrees are in the humanities. Less than 9% of all doctoral degrees are in the humanities, the second from last among all fields ahead of the arts.

Of all master’s degrees, 3.4% are in Religion, 11.8% in History, and 36% in English (high); approximately 65% go to white/non-Hispanic students.

Of all doctoral degrees, 5.1% are in Religion, 20% in History, and 28% in English (high); approximately 65% humanities doctoral degrees go to white/non-Hispanic students (2,384 white/non-Hispanic, 156 African American, 175 Hispanic, 138 Asian or Pacific Islander, 222 Other/Unknown, and 594 Temporary Resident).

Just over 60% of all master’s degrees in the humanities go to women. Just over 50% of all doctoral degrees go to women.

9.7 years is the median number of years for completion of doctoral degrees in the humanities (highest overall). All Fields is 8 years.

Over 28% of humanities graduate students rely on their own resources to pay for education, compared to Physical Sciences at 5.3% (lowest) and Education at 60.3 (highest).

4% of humanities-related jobs are in post-secondary education, compared to 37% in primary/secondary education.

56% of all those awarded Ph.D.’s in the humanities leave university with a definite job commitment.

Humanities faculty has increased 24% since 1999. History faculty has seen a slight but steady increase over the last decade, while Religion and Philosophy faculties have seen a slight decrease in the last 5 years.

Roughly 5% of humanities faculty are categorized at Hispanic, 5% as African American, and 5% as Asian or Pacific Islander, all substantially lower than most other fields.

40% of tenured humanities faculty are women.

Humanities full-time faculty receive the lowest salaries of all fields with a median income of $61,852, compared to overall median of all fields with $70,414 and Engineering (highest) with $89,878.

I could go on. Suffice it to say that this is a highly informative study that everyone in the academic profession should consider. For graphs and explanations and much, much, much, much more, go to To read the press release, click here.


Art at: February 6, 2009 at 3:17 AM said...

Great stuff, Mike. This is very useful, and I look forward to sifting through the results.

Interestingly, I just met someone who majored in philosophy. We had an interesting conversation and, at one point, something that he said really stood out. "You want fries with that."

OK, that’s a tired joke. But it's basically the sentiment that I'm up against every time I suggest to someone that they should consider a major or minor in religion. "But what can I do with that?," they ask. My response: "Whatever you want."

I'm seeing more and more evidence that humanities majors score higher on LSATs, MCATs, and GREs. Moreover, my employer friends tell me that they keep an eye out for resumes showing some exposure to the humanities. So my basic line is that religion (or any other humanities-related field) is a perfect pre-professional program. It hasn't caught on yet--many still see a future of milkshakes and indoor playgrounds when I raise the issue.

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