Humanities Indicators
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Workforce  >  Earnings & Occupations of Humanities Majors
 
The Employment Status of Humanities Majors
(Updated October 2015)

In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the economic value of college degrees. The following indicators assess whether humanities majors (both male and female) experience higher rates of unemployment than graduates from other fields. The results indicate that humanities graduates have are somewhat likelier to be unemployed than graduates in several other fields who have comparable education attainment and are at similar stages in their lives.

Findings

  • In 2013, 5.4% of the humanities majors who were terminal bachelor’s degree holders (TBHs) were unemployed (defined here as someone who does not have a job, actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, and is currently available for work; Indicator III-3f).[1] This was slightly higher than the 4.6% rate among graduates with TBHs from all fields. TBHs who majored in the health and medical sciences had the lowest rate of unemployment, 2.8%. (Note that this compares to a national rate of 7.0% among all Americans ages 25 to 64, including those without college degrees.)[2]
  • Male humanities TBHs had a slightly higher unemployment rate than their female counterparts (5.6% as compared to 5.1%).
  • The widest gender gaps in unemployment rates were found among those with arts and engineering degrees. The unemployment rate for male engineering TBHs was 3.5%, as compared to a 5.1% rate among women. A 1.6 percentage point gap was also found in the arts, but in that discipline the unemployment rate among men was 7.0% as compared to 5.4% among women.
  • The unemployment rate among people who received a bachelor's degree in the humanities and subsequently earned an advanced degree (in any field) was 3.4%, slightly above the 3.1% rate among graduates from all fields who had earned advanced degrees (Indicator III-3g). Students who majored in the health and medical sciences and received an advanced degree had the lowest unemployment rate, 2.0%.
  • Only a slight difference separated the unemployment rates for male (3.4%) and female (3.5%) humanities majors with advanced degrees.
  • Among graduates with advanced degrees, the widest gender gap in unemployment was found among those who majored in engineering. The unemployment rate among men was 2.5%, while the rate among women was 3.6%.
  • Among early career humanities TBHs (ages 24 to 34), men had a slightly higher rate of unemployment (5.7%) than women (4.6%; Indicator III-3h).[3] Among the older cohort (ages 35 to 54) men and women had identical rates of unemployment (5.0%).
  • Among humanities majors with advanced degrees, the unemployment rates for men and women differed only slightly. Among younger advanced degree recipients, the unemployment rate was 4.2% for men and 4.1% for women. Among those ages 35 to 54, the rate for men was 2.8% as compared to 3.0% for women.
  • Among younger TBHs (ages 24 to 34), multidisciplinary/general science graduates had the highest unemployment rate (6.0%), followed closely by graduates in the arts (5.9%)—higher than the 5.1% rate for the humanities (Indicator III-3i). Younger TBHs in the health and medical sciences had the lowest rate of unemployment, 2.9%.
  • Among older TBHs (ages 35 to 54), arts majors and humanities majors had the highest rates of unemployment (5.2% and 5.0%), while the rate among health and medical sciences graduates was the lowest, 2.1%.
  • Among younger college graduates (ages 24 to 34) with advanced degrees, those with undergraduate degrees from multidisciplinary and general science programs had the highest unemployment rates, 4.7% (Indicator III-3j). Business majors with advanced degrees had the second highest rate, 4.3%. The unemployment rate for humanities majors with advanced degrees at young ages was 4.1%, a rate close to that for behavioral and social sciences majors (also 4.1%) and students of the arts (4.0%).
  • The unemployment rate for older graduates (ages 35 to 54) with advanced degrees was highest among undergraduate arts majors (4.8%), followed by graduates in business and the behavioral and social sciences (3.5%). The rate for humanities majors (2.9%) was close to the rate for all graduates (2.8%) at this stage in their lives, as well as for undergraduate majors in the physical sciences (3.0%).
III-3f: Unemployment* among People with a Terminal Bachelor's Degree, by Gender and Major, 2013

* People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, and are currently available for work. For an inventory of the particular degree programs included under each of the broad academic fields to which the graph refers, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample.

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III-3g: Unemployment* among People with Advanced Degrees, by Gender and Major, 2013

* People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, and are currently available for work. For an inventory of the particular degree programs included under each of the broad academic fields to which the graph refers, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample.

About this DataRelated Indicators
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III-3h: Unemployment* among People with an Undergraduate Degree in the Humanities, by Gender, Highest Degree, and Age, 2013

* People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, and are currently available for work. For an inventory of the particular degree programs included under each of the broad academic fields to which the graph refers, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample.

About this DataRelated Indicators
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III-3i: Unemployment* among People with a Terminal Bachelor’s Degree, by Age Cohort and Major, 2013

* People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, and are currently available for work. For an inventory of the particular degree programs included under each of the broad academic fields to which the graph refers, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample.

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/III-3i.xlsx../cmsData/ppt/III-3i.ppt../cmsData/pdf/III-3i.pdf
III-3j: Unemployment* among People with an Advanced Degree, by Age Cohort and Major, 2013

* People are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the previous four weeks, and are currently available for work. For an inventory of the particular degree programs included under each of the broad academic fields to which the graph refers, see the ACS-HI Crosswalk.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample.

About this DataRelated Indicators
../cmsData/xls/III-3j.xlsx../cmsData/ppt/III-3j.ppt../cmsData/pdf/III-3j.pdf

Endnotes

[1] Please see “About the Data” for more information as to how the unemployment rates reported here, based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) data, compare to the commonly known monthly unemployment rates, which are based on the Current Population Survey, a joint effort of the Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
[2] U.S. Census Bureau, 2013 American Community Survey, http://factfinder.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/13_1YR/S2301/0100000US (accessed 10/2/2015).
[3] The ACS does not ask respondents about their amount of work experience. Thus the Humanities Indicators uses age to distinguish between workers who are in the first years of their career and those who are more experienced. Age and work experience are not perfectly correlated, but age does provide an approximate measure of work experience that allows the Humanities Indicators to examine the effect of this experience on unemployment and earnings.