Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate Education
 
Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated May 2017)

The proportion of bachelor’s degrees in the humanities that were earned by traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups has increased since 1995, and in 2015 the field surpassed higher education as a whole in participation by these groups.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, 22% of humanities bachelor’s degrees were awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups,[1] an increase of nine percentage points since 1995 (Indicator II-4a). The share grew by almost a fourth from 1995 to 2000 and then stagnated for almost a decade before increasing approximately five percentage points from 2009 to 2015.
  • From 1995 to 2013, the humanities’ share of bachelor’s degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups closely tracked the share for all fields combined, but was somewhat smaller. From 2013 to 2015, however, the share in humanities rose slightly faster than that for all fields (growing 10% in the humanities as compared to 5% among all fields), which raised the humanities’ share slightly above all fields combined (22.0% compared to 21.4% in 2015).
  • When compared to the share of bachelor’s degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups in other academic fields, the humanities’ share in 2015 (22%) was most similar to that of the health and medical sciences and business (21.5% and 20.5% respectively). The largest shares were found in the behavioral and social science fields (26.1%) and fields classified as “other” by the Humanities Indicators (25.5%, with more than a third of the degrees awarded in criminal justice and social work). The field with the smallest—and also slowest growing—share was engineering (15.5%).
  • In 2015, Hispanics were the best-represented among minority bachelor’s degree recipients in the humanities, earning 12.2% of all degrees completed in the field—slightly above the 11.8% for all fields (Indicator II-4b). Only the behavioral and social sciences and the fields classified here as “Other/Unknown” awarded a greater share of their degrees to Hispanic students. Hispanics were the best-represented minority group in all fields except engineering and natural sciences, fields in which Asians were better represented.
  • African American students received 9.2% of all humanities bachelor’s degrees in 2015, slightly above the 9.1% recorded for all fields combined.
  • In 2015, the humanities had one of the smallest proportions of Asian/Pacific Islander students completing undergraduate degrees (4.3%), falling 2.5 percentage points below the share for all fields. Only education and the “Other/Unknown” fields awarded smaller shares (2.8% and 3.7% respectively). The humanities also had a relatively low share of graduates who were temporary residents (2.3% as compared to 4.1% for all fields combined).
  • Among the humanities disciplines, cultural, ethnic, and gender studies awarded the largest share of its degrees to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (48.4% in 2015; Indicator II-4c). All other humanities disciplines conferred less than 28% of their degrees on students from traditionally underrepresented groups. Among humanities disciplines with more than 400 graduates (and thus less year-to-year volatility in the demographic mix of students receiving degrees), the discipline of history recorded the lowest share of degree recipients from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (15.5%).
  • The share of humanities degrees earned by traditionally underrepresented students increased by 46% or more from 1995 to 2015 in every humanities discipline except cultural, ethnic, and gender studies (where the share of such students was stable at a much higher level). The largest percentage increase occurred in archeology, where the share of traditionally underrepresented students more than doubled, rising from 4.9% to 12.6% of the degrees conferred. Among the larger disciplines (with more than 400 students), disciplines in the humanistic study of the arts had the largest increase, rising from 8.2% in 1995 to 17.1% in 2015. (Size disparities among fields must be considered when comparing rates of change on this measure or any other; see Indicator I-2c: Number of Humanities Bachelor’s Degree Completions, by Discipline, 1987–2014.)
II-4a: Percentage of Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups,* Selected Academic Fields, 1995–2015

* Includes students who are citizens or permanent residents and self-identify as African American (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native.

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. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-4b: Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients, Selected Academic Fields, 2015
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. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).
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II-4c: Percentage of Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups,* by Humanities Discipline, 1995–2015

* Includes students who are citizens or permanent residents and self-identify as African American (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native.

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. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

About this DataRelated Indicators
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Endnotes

[1] Includes students who are citizens or permanent residents and self-identify as African American (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native.