Humanities Indicators
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Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated August 2017)

The percentage of advanced degrees in the humanities awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups increased from 1995 to 2015 but tended to be smaller than the percentage for higher education as a whole.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, the share of humanities master’s degrees awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was 14.9%, up from 8.2% in 1995 but down slightly from the 15.5% reported in 2014 (Indicator II-12a).
  • At the master’s level, the share of humanities degrees going to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was generally about two percentage points smaller than the share for all fields combined during the 1995–2015 period.
  • In 2015, the share of humanities doctorates completed by students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was 10.5%, four percentage points greater than in 1995 and the largest share recorded over the time period (Indicator II-12b).
  • At the doctoral level, the percentage of humanities degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups from 1995 to 2010 was consistently close to the percentage for all fields combined, rising slightly above the share for all fields in nine of the sixteen years. In 2011, the humanities’ share fell to 1.9 percentage points below the share for all fields combined, the largest gap on record, and over the next four years the gap remained above 1 percentage point.
  • In 2015, the humanities had a larger percentage of advanced degree recipients self-identifying as white permanent residents of the United States than most of the other fields (Indicator II-12c). Among master’s and professional-practice degree recipients, 60.9% were in this category (which was smaller than the share in the education field, 65.2%, and essentially the same as the health and medical sciences, 61.0%). Among the fields examined here, humanities had the largest percentage of white permanent residents among its doctoral degree recipients, 59.9%, which was 11 percentage points higher than the share of white permanent residents for all fields combined (Indicator II-12d).
  • The humanities awarded comparatively small shares of degrees to international students residing in the United States on temporary visas. At the master’s level, 10.7% of students in 2015 were identified as temporary residents, which was four percentage points below the share for all fields combined, and lower than all other fields except education and the health and medical sciences (where the shares were close to 3%). At the doctoral level, 15.9% of humanities graduates were identified as temporary residents, which was 11 percentage points below the share for all fields combined. Only the fields of education and the health and medical sciences had smaller shares.
  • In 2015, the humanities awarded a relatively small share of master’s degrees to African American students (5.9%, which was three percentage points below the share for all fields) but awarded one of the larger shares to Hispanics (8.5%, which was almost a percentage point above the share for master’s education as a whole).
  • African Americans completed 3.5% of all doctorates in the humanities in 2015, a markedly smaller share than in the education field (16.6%) but larger than the shares for engineering and the natural sciences. The share of humanities doctorates awarded to Hispanics (6.5%) was larger than in all other fields but education and behavioral/social science.
  • In 2015, the humanities awarded 3.0% of its master’s degrees and 3.9% of its doctorates to students of Asian or Pacific Islander descent. This was a smaller share than for all other fields except education.
  • Among the humanities disciplines, cultural, ethnic, and gender studies was the most likely to award an advanced degree to a member of a traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic group—by a wide margin (Indicator II-12e and Indicator II-12f). In 2015, 39.6% of the students earning master’s degrees and 38.0% of the students receiving doctoral degrees in the discipline were members of a traditionally underrepresented group.
  • In every humanities discipline examined here, the percentage of graduates from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups who received master’s degrees was larger in 2015 than in 1995, with the share increasing by 29% or more in every discipline. (The small number of students receiving doctoral degrees in any particular discipline means that relatively modest year-to-year changes in the number of degree completions by members of traditionally underrepresented minority groups translate into dramatic increases and decreases in share. As a result, for certain years during the 1995–2015 period some disciplines saw a share of degrees going to traditionally underrepresented ethnic/racial minorities that was substantially higher or lower than the most recent [2015] share. “Spiky” data of this kind make the identification of trends difficult.)
  • At the doctoral level, the fields of classical studies; cultural, ethnic, and gender studies; and linguistics each had a smaller percentage of graduates from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups in 2015 than in 1995. (Please see the bullet above for a caution regarding the interpretation of “spiky” data.)
II-12a: Percentage of Master’s and Professional-Practice 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. Data were accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-12b: Percentage of Doctoral 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. Data were accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-12c: Racial/Ethnic Distribution of 2015 Master’s and Professional-Practice Degree Recipients, Selected Academic Fields
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System. Data were accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).
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II-12d: Racial/Ethnic Distribution of 2015 Doctoral Degree Recipients, Selected Academic Fields
Source: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Data System. Data were accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).
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II-12e: Percentage of Master’s Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups,* Selected Humanities Disciplines, 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. Data were accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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II-12f: Percentage of Doctoral Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups,* Selected Humanities Disciplines, 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. Data were accessed via the National Science Foundation’s online data system, WebCASPAR. Data analyzed and presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

About this DataRelated Indicators
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