Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate Education
 
Disciplinary Distribution of Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated March 2016)

The humanities encompass a wide array of disciplines, each of which attracts a different number of student majors. Despite shifts in scholarly attention and interest since 1987, the shares of all humanities bachelor’s degrees conferred by the various humanities disciplines were similar three decades later.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2014, English language and literature degrees represented the largest share of humanities bachelor’s degrees, amounting to 28% of bachelor’s degrees in the field (Indicator II-2a). The second largest portion of undergraduate humanities degrees fell into the general humanities/liberal studies category, accounting for approximately a quarter of the total (26%).
  • Folklore (included in “Other Humanities Disciplines” on the graph) awarded the smallest share of undergraduate humanities degrees. This was only the third year in which bachelor’s degrees in folklore have been recorded.
  • Since 1987, English language and literature, although still the most popular humanities major, declined the most steeply in its share of humanities degrees, falling from 36% of the degrees conferred in the field in 1987 to 28% in 2014 (Indicator II-2b). Although the actual number of degrees awarded in English language and literature in 2014 was well above the 1987 level, other disciplines grew more rapidly and experienced less leveling off in the three intervening decades. Area studies, comparative literature, and languages and literatures other than English and also experienced a decline in share. Every other discipline awarded an equal or greater share of the total in 2014 than in 1987.
II-2a: Distribution of Humanities Bachelor’s Degree Completions among Disciplines, 2014*
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR.
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II-2b: Percentage of Humanities Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded by Each Discipline, 1987–2014*

* Values for the disciplines included in the “Other” category are provided in Supporting Table II-2b.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System; accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR.

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