The bulk of the data that form the basis of this indicator is drawn from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS; 1966–1986) and its successor, the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS; 1987–present), through which institutions of higher learning report on the numbers and characteristics of students completing degree programs (as well as a variety of other topics; for more on IPEDS, see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/). The HEGIS/IPEDS degree-completion data have been made accessible to decision-makers, researchers, and the general public by the National Science Foundation (NSF) via its online data analysis tool WebCASPAR.
Degree-completion data for years 1948 through 1965 were derived from the Survey of Earned Degrees, which was first administered by the Office of Education (the Department of Education’s predecessor) and later by NCES. The Survey of Earned Degrees data were culled from printed publications, because the information is not included in WebCASPAR. For the trend lines extending back to 1948, data are presented only for a limited portfolio of humanities disciplines, because the academic discipline classification systems employed by NCES in its reporting on the Survey of Earned Degrees and HEGIS are not fine-grained enough to capture the full complement of disciplines considered by the Humanities Indicators (HI) to be within the scope of the humanities. (For an inventory of the disciplines and activities treated as part of the humanities by the HI, see the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators.)
For 1987 and later years (1995 and later for data on the race/ethnicity of degree recipients), WebCASPAR categorizes earned degrees according to the more detailed Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP). The CIP was first developed by NCES in 1980 as a way of accounting 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. An analysis of completions using CIP permits the HI to include earned degrees in a substantially greater number of the disciplines considered by the HI to be part of the humanities field.
For example, with CIP-coded data, 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 HI can include degrees in such disciplines as archeology, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, and Holocaust studies in its counts of humanities degrees from 1987 onward. CIP-coded data are always the basis of humanities degree counts for indicators that report only degree data after 1986. For an inventory of the CIP disciplinary categories included by the HI under the field heading of “humanities” (as well as those categories of the NSF-developed taxonomy of academic disciplines that are the basis of the HI’s tabulations of (1) degrees in nonhumanities fields and (2) certain tabulations of humanities degrees for years 1966–1986), see the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog. This catalog also indicates which degree programs the HI includes within specific humanities disciplines (e.g., for the purposes of the HI, English degrees include those classified under CIP as being in “English Language and Literature,” “American Literature,” and “Creative Writing,” among others).
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 in the share of degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented ethnic/minority groups includes a data point for the academic year 1999, because the NCES did not release such data for that year.
The bachelor’s degree counts presented in Indicators II-1a and II-1b do not include “second majors” because NCES began collecting data about these degrees only in 2001. The HI deals separately with the issue of second majors in Indicator II-1c, Humanities Bachelor’s Degrees Earned as “Second Majors,” 2001–2010.
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, page 8, table 12).
For each academic discipline or field, the share of all degrees earned by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was calculated by dividing the number of 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 that field. Not included in the count of traditionally underrepresented minorities were (1) students of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, (2) students designated by their educational institutions as being of “Other/Unknown Ethnicity,” and (3) 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).
According to the NCES, a student is assigned to the “Other/Unknown Ethnicity” category only if he or she does not select a racial/ethnic designation and his or her educational institution is unable 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.
For comparison to the percentages of degrees awarded to students of different races/ethnicities as calculated by the Humanities Indicators (HI), HI staff tabulated the following estimates of the share of the total national young adult (18–30 years old) population in each of the categories employed by the HI (estimates are for July 1, 2013):
African American, Non-Hispanic: 14.1%
Asian or Pacific Islander: 5.8%
Native American or Alaska Native: 0.8%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population by Sex, Single Year of Age, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2013 (Release Date: June 2014),” downloaded from http://www.census.gov/popest/data/national/asrh/2013/index.html.
Crosswalk Relating the Census Bureau–Defined Race and Ethnicity Categories (above) and the Categories Employed by the HI*
Census Bureau–Defined Categories
“African American, Non-Hispanic”
“Not Hispanic, Black alone”
“Asian or Pacific Islander”
“Not Hispanic, Asian alone”“Not Hispanic, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone”
“Hispanic, White alone”
“Native American or Alaska Native”
“Not Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native alone”
“Not Hispanic, White alone”
* Unlike Census categories, the categories used by the HI, which are those found in WebCASPAR (classification variable: “Race Ethnicity (standardized)”), are mutually exclusive. For the purposes of the HI analysis, degree completers indicating that they are more than one race are included in the “Other/Unknown Races Ethnicities” category.
For historical trends in levels of humanities bachelor's degree completion, see “Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities.”
For additional information on the demographics of students earning undergraduate humanities degrees, see “Gender Distribution of Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities.”
For details as to the types of humanities degrees awarded and the nature of the institutions from which they are received, see “Disciplinary Distribution of Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities” and “Institutional Distribution of Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities.”
For information on trends at the graduate level, see “Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities.”
The Humanities Indicators and Departmental Survey have been made possible in part
by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the
Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this
website do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
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