Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate Education
 
Gender Distribution of Bachelor's Degrees in the Humanities
(Updated April 2015)

The share of humanities bachelor’s degrees awarded to women has traditionally been higher than that for all fields combined, but the gap has narrowed in recent years.

Findings and Trends

  • Just over half of all bachelor’s degrees in the humanities were awarded to women in 1967, with the percentage rising as high as almost 62% in 2003 before falling gradually over the next decade to 59% (Indicator II-5a).
  • The humanities were most like the fine and performing arts field with respect to the representation of women among degree recipients in 2013. The social services/education, natural science, and social science fields each had a greater share of women who completed degrees in 2013, while business and management had substantially smaller shares.
  • In all of the academic fields tabulated here, with the exception of fine and performing arts, the highest percentage of female bachelor’s degree recipients was reported in the early to mid-2000s. By 2013, the percentage of women reported among degree recipients in each of those had declined—by as little as 0.5 percentage points (in the behavioral and social sciences) to as much as 5 percentage points (in engineering). Over the same time period the fine and performing arts experienced slight growth in their share of female degree recipients.
  • In every year for which data are available, there were wide differences among the humanities disciplines in the share of women earning bachelor’s degrees (Indicator II-5b). For example, in 2013, 79% of bachelor’s degrees in ethnic, gender, and cultural studies were awarded to women, compared with only 31% of philosophy degrees.
  • In most humanities disciplines, the proportion of women earning bachelor’s degrees peaked around 2003 and declined over the next 10 years—although the female shares remained larger than they were in the late 1980s, the first years for which such data are available. The three exceptions are the study of the arts, languages and literatures other than English, and linguistics. All of these disciplines began with a very substantial female representation among degree completers, but by 2013 the share of women had declined—although in all three fields the majority of degree completers was still female. The greatest decrease in the female share from 1987 to 2013 was in the study of arts: a decline of ten percentage points (from 68% to 58%).
II-5a: Percentage of Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded to Women, Selected Academic Fields, 1967–2013

* Degrees for 1966–1986 are classified by the disciplinary categories employed by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Degrees for 1987–2010 are categorized using the National Center for Education Statistics’Classification of Instructional Programs(CIP). Please see theNote on the Data Used to Calculate Humanities Degree Counts and Sharesfor an explanation of the differences between the two classification systems and theNSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalogfor a description of the types of degrees counted as humanities degrees under each classification system.

** For years 1966–1986, the NSF academic discipline category of “Arts Music” is used. This category includes the academic study of the arts (e.g., art history and film studies). For years 1987–2010, degree data are available by CIP code, making possible the removal of such degrees from the count for “Fine Performing Arts” and their inclusion among humanities degrees.

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 integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.

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II-5b: Percentage of Humanities Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded to Women, Selected Disciplines, 1987–2013
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 integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR.
About this DataRelated Indicators
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