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A PROJECT OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

     
       

Part II. Undergraduate and Graduate Education in the Humanities

Section B. Graduate Education

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Indicator II-10 Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-11 Disciplinary Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-12 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-13 Gender Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Indicator II-14 Humanities Degree Completions: An International Comparison
Indicator II-15 Time Spent in Graduate School
Indicator II-16 Paying for Graduate School
Indicator II-17 Attrition in Graduate Programs



See the
Note on the Definition of Master’s Degrees and First Professional Degrees.

Whereas the previous section dealt with trends in the character and outcomes of undergraduate education in the humanities, the indicators presented here take up these issues with respect to graduate education. Data are provided on the number of master’s and doctoral degrees awarded in the field over the last several decades, as well as on the progress made in the areas of gender equality and racial/ethnic diversity. As has been the case for undergraduate degrees, the absolute number of graduate degrees awarded in the humanities has rebounded somewhat since the mid-1980s, when degree numbers troughed after a roughly 15-year tumble from the historic highs of the early 1970s. At the same time, however, because of a large concurrent increase in the absolute number of advanced degrees awarded in all fields, the percentage of all graduate degrees awarded in humanities disciplines in the early 21st century was much smaller than it was four decades earlier. In terms of diversity, a graduate degree in humanities was as likely to be awarded to a woman as to a man in 2007 (somewhat more likely at the master’s level), but minority students were still greatly underrepresented relative to their proportion of the total U.S. population. When placed in an international context, the United States emerges as a strong producer of humanities-trained postsecondary graduates.

Within the academic humanities, the quality of life for graduate students and the job prospects that face newly minted Ph.D.’s have been areas of concern in the last decade. Given a paucity of data, many observers have had to rely on incomplete or anecdotal evidence in their consideration of these issues. This section brings together such data on graduate education as do exist in an effort to supply at least partial answers to such questions as:

What are the costs (both temporal and monetary) of attending graduate school in the humanities?
What is the “survival rate” of graduate students in the humanities—that is, how many students who begin graduate programs actually finish?

Although existing data can tell us little about the latter subject, two ambitious new research efforts are underway that will soon shed much-needed light on the drop-out rates in graduate humanities programs and how these compare to the drop-out rates of other disciplines. (These programs are described in greater detail in Indicator II-17, Attrition in Graduate Programs.)

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Indicator II-10 Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/16/2010) with data from 2007.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators and the Note on the Definition of Master’s Degrees and First Professional Degrees.

As was the case at the bachelor’s degree level, the last four decades have seen dramatic growth, marked decline, and then recovery of the academic humanities with respect to the completion of advanced degrees (see Indicator II-1, Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities). As Figures II-10a and II-10b illustrate, while the period from the late 1960s to the early 1970s was one of increasing numbers of master’s and doctoral degree completions in the humanities, this trend reversed as the 1970s progressed, so that by the mid-1980s the humanities were awarding approximately 50% as many advanced degrees. By the late 1980s, however, these degree completions were on the rise once again, and in the mid-1990s completion numbers at the master’s level had reached 69% of their 1971 high. Then, after a decline in completions throughout the late 1990s, master’s degree completions picked up again in 2002 and increased modestly in each of the subsequent four years. The count for 2007 was the first of the decade to reflect a decline from the previous year. The number of Ph.D. completions in 2007 was down somewhat from 2000, the height of the recovery from the 1980s slump in humanities doctorates, when the number reached 84% of its 1973 peak.

Figure II-10a, Full Size
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Figure II-10b, Full Size
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Graduate humanities programs, like their undergraduate counterparts, have experienced a substantial loss of share over the last several decades—that is, a reduction in the number of all advanced degrees awarded in the humanities relative to the number awarded in other fields. While the absolute numbers of advanced degrees conferred in the humanities rose well above the mid-1980s low, the even more substantial growth in the numbers of advanced degrees awarded in other fields served to keep the humanities’ share of all master’s and doctoral degrees well below the record levels observed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. At the master’s level, the humanities share of all degrees has stood since 2000 at roughly a quarter of the 1967 peak level. While the decade between 1988 and 1998 saw steady increases in the humanities’ share of all doctoral degrees, the proportion then began to shrink again, so that by 2007 it was 44% of the 1973 high. (These calculations are based on degree award data classified according the National Science Foundation’s disciplinary categories; for an explanation of the foundation’s system, see the Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators.)


Over the last two decades, humanities degrees have constituted a small percentage (less than 5%) of all degrees awarded at the master’s and first professional degree level (Figure II-10c; see the Note on the Definition of Master’s Degrees and First Professional Degrees). At the doctoral level, the percentage of degrees awarded in the humanities has been somewhat greater, ranging between 7% and 10% of all degrees over this time period (Figure II-10d). In contrast, science degrees represented between 43% and 49% of all doctorates.

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Figure II-10d, Full Size
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Indicator II-11 Disciplinary Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/4/2010) with data from 2007.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators.

In 2007, at both the master’s and doctoral degree levels, English was the most common area in which advanced degrees in the humanities were completed. Approximately a third of all humanities degrees at both levels were awarded by English departments (Figures II-11a and II-11b; data are provided only for 2007, the most current year for which information is available, because the disciplinary distribution of graduate degrees has changed little since 1987, the first year for which such data are available; see the Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators).

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At the master’s level, general humanities degrees represented 15.0% of all humanities degrees, making them the second most common type of humanities degree awarded. At the doctoral level, the percentage of such general degrees was far smaller. History and OTE languages awarded larger shares of degrees at the doctoral level than at the master’s level, and these disciplines, together with English, constituted the majority of Ph.D. completions. Another notable difference between the two degree levels was in the percentage of degrees awarded in philosophy. In 2007, philosophy degrees were only 3.9% of the master’s degrees awarded but constituted 9.5% of all doctorates.

The smallest share of degrees at each level, less than 1%, was awarded in archeology. As was the case at the bachelor’s level (see Indicator II-2, Disciplinary Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees), although scholarship concerning race and gender grew considerably over the last several decades, students doing graduate work in these areas continued to receive their degrees in established disciplines. In 2007, the share of all advanced humanities degrees awarded in ethnic/gender/cultural studies was approximately 2.5%.

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Indicator II-12 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
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Updated (3/16/2010) with data from 2007.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators, the Note on the Definition of Master’s Degrees and First Professional Degrees, the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Ethnic Groups, and the Note on Racial/Ethnic Composition of Total U.S. Population.

The percentage of advanced degrees in the humanities awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups increased between 1995 and 2007 (see the Note on Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators). By 2007 the share of humanities master’s degrees awarded to these students had grown to 11.5%, up from 7.9% in the mid-1990s (Figure II-12a; see the Note on the Definition of Master’s Degrees and First Professional Degrees). Over the same period, the percentage of doctorates bestowed on minority students increased by four percentage points, reaching 10.7% by 2007 (Figure II-12b).

At the master’s level, the share of humanities degrees going to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups tended to fall somewhat short of that for all fields during this period, and this gap grew over time. In the case of doctoral degrees, the percentage of awards to minority students was consistently close to the percentage in all fields combined. (For an explanation of how these percentages were determined, see the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Ethnic Groups For information regarding the racial/ethnic composition of the total U.S. population, see the Note on Racial/Ethnic Composition of Total U.S. Population.)

Figure II-12a, Full Size
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Figure II-12b, Full Size
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Figure II-12c depicts the ethnic composition of the master’s and first professional degree recipient population for selected fields in 2007. In that year, while the humanities awarded a small percentage of master’s degrees to African American students (4.7%) relative to several other fields, the humanities had one of the highest rates of receipt by Hispanics (6.2%). At the doctoral level, African American students were awarded a far greater percentage of degrees in education and the social service professions than in any other field (Figure II-12d). However, when education and the social service professions are excluded, the humanities were among the fields awarding the largest shares of doctorates to these students (4.5%). The proportion of humanities doctorates awarded to Hispanic students was comparable to that for African American students.

In 2007, the humanities awarded approximately 4% of all advanced degrees to students of Asian descent. This was a smaller share than for any field except education. American Indian students and those of Native Alaskan ancestry were awarded less than 1% of all advanced degrees in the humanities.

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Figure II-12d, Full Size
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One of the most striking features of the 2007 data is the share of advanced humanities degree awards to temporary residents. The attraction of U.S. graduate programs in science and engineering to international students has been widely acknowledged. Less well appreciated is the fact that U.S. humanities departments also bestowed a nonnegligible share of their degrees (7.9% at the master’s level, 17.9% at the doctoral) on international students.

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Indicator II-13 Gender Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
Print II-13

Updated (4/2/2010) with data from 2007.

See the
Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators and the Note on the Definition of Master’s Degrees and First Professional Degrees.

Since 1966, the humanities have been one of the fields with the most balanced gender distribution of degrees at the master’s level. While master’s degrees were awarded somewhat more often to men than women in the mid-1960s, by 1970, gender parity had been achieved. Women subsequently went on to become the majority of humanities master’s recipients, garnering 61% of all degrees awarded in 2007 (Figure II-13a). At the beginning of the 21st century, only education/social service professions and the health sciences awarded a substantially greater percentage of master’s degrees to women than did the humanities. Business, engineering, law, and physical sciences awarded a considerably smaller share. At the master’s level, as at the bachelor’s, the percentage of humanities degrees awarded to women has been traditionally higher than that for all fields combined, though the gap has been steadily narrowing, almost disappearing in 2007 (see Indicator II-5, Gender Distribution of Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities).

Figure II-13a, Full Size
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In the mid 1960s, the humanities, like all other academic disciplines, awarded only a minority of doctoral degrees to women. Though they fared better in the humanities than in nearly all other fields, women still received only 19% of humanities doctorates at that time (Figure II-13b). Throughout the 1970s, however, this percentage increased steadily, so that by the early 1980s, women represented approximately 45% of all new humanities doctoral degree recipients.

As the 1980s continued, growth of women’s share of humanities degrees slowed, and gender parity was not reached until the mid-1990s. Thereafter, doctoral degrees continued to be distributed quite evenly between men and women, in contrast to the lower degree levels where the share of female degree recipients continued to grow. Nonetheless, the percentage of humanities doctorates awarded to women has traditionally been greater than that for all fields combined. By 2007, however, the situation was similar to that at the master’s level: the share of humanities doctorates awarded to women was approximately the same as that for all fields combined.

Figure II-13b, Full Size
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Indicator II-14 Humanities Degree Completions: An International Comparison
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Updated (4/2/2010) with data from 2007.

As other indicators have revealed, over the past 40 years the humanities have become less prominent in American universities in terms of the proportion of degrees awarded (see Indicator II-1, Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities, and Indicator II-10, Advanced Degrees in the Humanities). But historical comparisons are not the only relevant assessment of the United States’ strength in the humanities. An international picture offers a different but equally valuable perspective on the status of higher education in the humanities in American society.

Each year, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gathers a wealth of data on the education-related investments and outcomes of its member nations. In order to arrive at meaningful comparisons among countries that have substantially different educational systems, the OECD uses the International Standard Classification of Education, which was created by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in the early 1970s to facilitate the efforts of the United Nations and other organizations to aggregate and present international education statistics. (For a roster of the disciplines that UNESCO includes within the humanities, see Humanities as Defined by the International Standard Classification of Education.) Unlike the Humanities Indicators, UNESCO treats theology as a humanities discipline (theology degrees constituted 1% of all degrees awarded by U.S. institutions in 2007).

Figure II-14 compares the percentages of all tertiary degrees (U.S. bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees are all considered tertiary degrees) OECD countries awarded in the humanities and arts in 2007. The United States ranked fourth among the 27 OECD countries for which data were available (data are presented only for 2007, the most current year for which such information is available, because the U.S.’ position in the rankings changed little over the several preceding years). The U.S. percentage was similar to that of Italy and approximately five points lower than the humanities degree leader, Japan, which bestows nearly 15% of its tertiary degrees in humanities disciplines.

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Indicator II-15 Time Spent in Graduate School
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Updated (4/2/2010) with data from 2007.

Obtaining a doctoral degree in any field involves a significant investment of time, energy, and forgone earnings. But as data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) shows, for students of the humanities, the road to the Ph.D. has traditionally been an especially long one: from 1977 to 2007, the median number of years from the start of graduate school to a doctorate award was consistently greater in this field than in the sciences and engineering (Figure II-15).

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What the humanities did share with other fields was a retreat from the particularly lengthy completion times recorded in the late 1980s and early 1990s for most fields (the exception being engineering). In 1977, the median number of years to completion of a humanities doctorate was 8.9 years. By 1987, the duration had increased by 1.6 years. But by 2007, after several years of incremental decline, the average time to completion was down to 9.3 years.

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Indicator II-16 Paying for Graduate School
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Updated (4/2/2010) with data from 2008.

Data from the SED indicate that since 1998, doctoral recipients in the humanities have relied overwhelmingly on teaching assistantships, grants (fellowships or dissertation grants), or their own resources to subsidize their graduate educations, with few supporting themselves through research assistantships or employer subsidies (Figure II-16a; data concerning how master’s degree recipients pay for graduate school are not currently collected by any public or private entity). However, while the proportion of humanities students who cited teaching as their primary source of financial support remained relatively constant between 1998 and 2008, these students’ reliance on their own resources steadily declined, and reliance on fellowships and grants correspondingly increased. In 2006, for the first time, as large a percentage of new Ph.D.’s cited fellowships as their primary support as cited teaching. By 2008, the share of students relying primarily on fellowships and grants exceeded, by more than two percentage points, the share whose primary support was teaching. Despite the growing importance of fellowships and grants, doctoral students in the humanities still relied more heavily on teaching as a source of income than did those in any other field (Figure II-16b). Humanities doctoral students were also more likely to draw on their own resources than were students in the natural sciences and engineering, though the proportion of humanities students who cited personal income or savings as their primary source of support was less than half the percentage of doctoral students in education who did so.

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While the importance of their own resources decreased relative to other forms of financial support between 1998 and 2008, humanities students’ average debt level increased (after adjusting for inflation) and recently was one of the highest in the U.S. academy. In 2008, new humanities Ph.D.’s reported an average graduate educational debt load of just under $17,000 (Figure II-16c). This average, however, masks a “feast or famine” situation with respect to the ability of students to secure graduate funding. As Figure II-16d reveals, over 50% of all humanities students awarded doctorates in 2008 emerged from their graduate programs with no educational debt. But approximately 23% of humanities students incurred more than $30,000 in debt, and over 15% carried debt loads in excess of $50,000.

Figure II-16c, Full Size
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Figure II-16d, Full Size
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Indicator II-17 Attrition in Graduate Programs
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Updated (4/2/2010)

Attrition in graduate programs is a topic of considerable interest to higher education researchers and administrators, but data that could be used to systematically assess the extent of attrition have been scarce. Information compiled by individual universities and programs suggests that attrition rates are substantial, but just how many people begin work toward a humanities Ph.D. and then drop out—and, even more important, why they drop out—are significant questions that have remained unanswered.

Fortunately, three new sources of data should greatly improve understanding of graduate attrition. The first of these, the Council of Graduate Schools’ Ph.D. Completion Project, was published in the autumn of 2007 (too late for inclusion in the first edition of the Humanities Indicators). Supported by funding from the Ford Foundation and Pfizer, Inc., the project has involved 29 U.S. and Canadian research universities in collecting data on doctoral completion rates, as well as on interventions designed to raise these rates.

The second data collection effort, a comprehensive assessment program of U.S. research doctorate programs administered by the National Research Council and funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and participating universities, will soon produce data on rates of graduate attrition for approximately 200 institutions of higher learning. This assessment program involves the collection of a variety of data that will be used to develop multidimensional ratings of U.S. graduate programs (see http://sites.nationalacademies.org/pga/Resdoc/index.htm for more information about the project). One criterion employed to rank programs is the proportion of graduate program entrants who successfully complete doctoral degrees. The data yielded by this ambitious effort should be available in mid-2010.

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded Graduate Education Initiative, the third new source of data on attrition, involved both the implementation of a set of interventions designed to improve graduate education in 54 humanities departments in ten major universities and an evaluation of the ten-year project’s outcomes. The findings of the evaluation are described in Educating Scholars: Doctoral Education in the Humanities (Princeton University Press, 2009). Future editions of the Humanities Indicators will include highlights from all three of these important studies.


Note on the Definition of Master’s Degrees and First Professional Degrees

The Humanities Indicators Project uses the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) definitions of master’s degrees and first professional degrees. According to the online version of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Glossary, master’s degrees are those “awards that require the successful completion of a program of study of at least the full-time equivalent of 1 academic year, but not more than 2 academic years of work beyond the bachelor’s degree.” First professional degrees are those “awards that require completion of a program that meets all the following criteria: (1) completion of the academic requirements to begin practice in the profession; (2) at least 2 years of college work prior to entering the program; and (3) a total of at least 6 academic years of college work to complete the degree program, including prior required college work plus the length of the professional program itself.” The following ten fields award first professional degrees:

Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.)
Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)
Law (LL.B., or J.D.)
Medicine (M.D.)
Optometry (O.D.)
Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., or Pod.D.)
Theology (M.Div., M.H.L., B.D., or Ordination)
Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.)

Although some fields (e.g., library science, hospital administration, and social work) require specialized degrees for employment at the professional level, the NCES does not count degrees in these fields as first professional degrees; instead, they are included as master’s degrees.

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Note on the Data Used to Construct Degree-Related Indicators

The data that form the basis of these indicators are drawn from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS) and its successor, the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS), through which institutions of higher learning report on the numbers and characteristics of students completing degree programs (as well as various other areas of information; for more on this major data collection program, see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/). The HEGIS/IPEDS degree-completion data going back to 1966 have been made easily accessible to researchers and the general public by the National Science Foundation (NSF) via its online data analysis tool WebCASPAR. The NSF has traditionally used the NCES data to tabulate science and engineering degree awards as part of its Science and Engineering Indicators Program, which since 1973 has issued a biennial report designed to provide public and private policymakers a broad base of quantitative information about the U.S. science, engineering, and technology enterprise.

In the process, the NSF has developed a set of standardized disciplinary classifications that can be used across the various data sources it relies upon to construct its indicators. Because the NSF focuses on trends in science and engineering education, the disciplinary classifications are most detailed in these areas. By contrast, the NSF’s disciplinary categories for the humanities are neither as inclusive nor as specific, and this limits the usefulness of the NSF classification system for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators. Thus, for example, the NSF scheme does not distinguish between the academic study of the arts, considered by the Humanities Indicators to be part of the humanities, and art performance. This makes it impossible for the Humanities Indicators to include in its tally those degrees conferred in the areas of musicology, art history, film studies, and drama history/criticism. Moreover, while the NSF system does provide degree counts for disciplines such as archeology, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, and Holocaust studies, it treats these disciplines as social sciences, not humanities as they are considered to be here. Additionally, in the NSF system, interdisciplinary degrees in areas such as general humanities and liberal studies are placed in a broad “Other” category that includes degrees for many disciplines that are clearly not within the purview of the humanities as they are used by the Humanities Indicators Project. Consequently, such interdisciplinary degrees, along with those mentioned above, cannot be captured in humanities degree counts from 1966 to 1986.

For the year 1987 and later (1995 and later for data on the race/ethnicity of degree recipients), however, the NSF also categorizes earned degrees according to the more detailed Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), which permits a more precise count of humanities degrees; that is, a count that includes degrees in all those programs that are part of academic disciplines included within the scope of the “humanities” for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators. (For an inventory of the disciplines and activities treated as part of the “humanities” by the Humanities Indicators, see the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators.) The CIP was first developed by the NCES in 1980 as a way to account for the tremendous variety of degree programs offered by American institutions of higher learning and has been revised three times since its introduction, most recently in 2009 (this version is referred to as “CIP 2010”). The CIP has also been adopted by Statistics Canada as its standard disciplinary classification system. While the CIP greatly facilitates comparisons between the two countries, such comparisons are beyond the present scope of the Humanities Indicators Project.

For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators, though, the CIP has several advantages over the NSF system. For example, because the older system grouped degrees in the nonsectarian study of religion with those awarded in programs designed to prepare students for religious vocations and because the latter type of degree is much more common, the Humanities Indicators could not include what the NSF considers to be degrees in religion in the humanities degree counts for years prior to 1987. With CIP-coded data, however, academic disciplines such as comparative religion can be separated from vocational programs such as theology and thus can be included in the humanities degree tally. Additionally, when using CIP-coded data, the Humanities Indicators can include degrees in all the disciplines mentioned above, from art history to Holocaust studies, in its counts of humanities degrees from 1987 onward. For an inventory of the NSF and CIP disciplinary codes included by the Humanities Indicators under the broad field headings used throughout this document (“humanities,” “natural sciences,” etc.), see the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog. For the humanities, this catalog lists the many degree programs that are counted within specific disciplines (e.g., English degrees include those classified under CIP as being in “English Language and Literature,” “American Literature,” and “Creative Writing,” among others).

In constructing indicators that use IPEDS data to track long-term historical trends in the academic humanities, the project has employed completion data that were classified using both the NSF and CIP systems. In these cases, either a note accompanying the chart or a break in the trend line indicates where the NSF classification leaves off and the CIP-based one begins. For those indicators reporting degree data gathered in 1987 or more recently (1995 or more recently for the charts and tables describing the proportions of all degrees received by members of racial/ethnic minority groups), CIP-coded data are used.

In the case of several of the degree-related indicators, the humanities are compared to certain other fields such as the sciences and engineering. The nature of these fields is specified in the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators. These broad fields do not encompass all postsecondary programs. Therefore, where fields are being compared in terms of their respective shares of all degrees, the percentages will not add up to 100%. Also, none of the graphs showing change over time includes a data point for the academic year 1999, because the NCES did not release data for that year.

The degree counts presented as part of the Humanities Indicators are for first degrees only. Although second degrees (which result in a student graduating with a “double major”) are not common (in the 2006–2007 academic year, they accounted for 5.2% of all degree completions), anecdotal evidence suggests that a preponderance of such degrees are in the humanities. Second-degree data are not available via WebCASPAR. In order to obtain counts of such degrees, a separate analysis will need to be performed using NCES’s online Data Analysis System. If resources permit such an analysis in the future, degree counts included in subsequent editions of the Humanities Indicators would represent a more complete tally of humanities degrees awarded in the United States. Data on the number of students completing minors are not collected as part of IPEDS, but such information was compiled for selected humanities disciplines as part of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences-sponsored Humanities Departmental Survey (HDS; see the HDS final report, Table 12).

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Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Ethnic Groups

The shares of all degrees earned by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups were calculated by dividing the number of humanities degrees completed by students identified by their institutions as African American (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native by the total number of degree completions in the humanities. Not included in the count of traditionally underrepresented minorities were (1) students designated by their educational institutions as being of “Other/Unknown Ethncity”1 and (2) international students—that is, temporary residents who were in the United States for the express purpose of attending school and who were likely to return to their home countries upon graduation (significant numbers of these individuals may be of African or Hispanic background, but the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the compiler of these data, does not request that institutions of higher learning collect racial/ethnicity data for such students).


Note

According to the NCES, the compiler of these data, a student is assigned to this category only if he or she does not select a racial/ethnic designation and his or her educational institution finds it impossible to place the student in one of the NCES-defined racial/ethnic categories during established enrollment procedures or in any post-enrollment identification or verification process. Over time the percentage of students categorized as “Other/Unknown” has grown, thereby reducing the ability of postsecondary institutions, policymakers, and the general public to reliably track the racial/ethnic diversity of degree recipients.


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Humanities as Defined by the International Standard Classification of Education

Humanities

Religion and theology;
Foreign languages and cultures: living or ‘dead’ languages and their literatures, area studies;
Native languages: current or vernacular language and its literature;
Other humanities: interpretation and translation, linguistics, comparative literature, history, archaeology, philosophy, ethics.


Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 1997 (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2006), 42, http://www.uis.unesco.org/TEMPLATE/pdf/isced/ISCED_A.pdf.

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Note on Racial/Ethnic Composition of Total U.S. Population

Using information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Division,* the Humanities Indicators has calculated the following estimates of the share of the total national population represented by each of the categories employed by the National Center for Education Statistics for the purpose of reporting the percentage of degrees awarded to students of different races/ethnicities (estimates are for July, 2008):

African American, Non-Hispanic
Asian or Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Native American or Alaska Native
12.4%
4.6%
14.8%
0.8%


* Data drawn from U.S. Census Bureau, “Table 3: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008 (NC-EST2008-03),” released May 14, 2009, http://www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/NC-EST2008-srh.html.

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