Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate Education
 
Demographics of Associate’s Degree Recipients in the Humanities
(Updated September 2017)

Among community-college students earning a degree in a humanities discipline or a degree that requires a substantial amount of training in the humanities—a degree in liberal or general studies, for example—the share of students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups increased substantially after 1989, while the share of women was largely unchanged.

Findings and Trends

  • In 2015, 32.1% of the associate’s degrees conferred in the humanities were awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups (African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native American; Indicator II-a4). This represents a 149% increase from 1989 (the first year for which data of this kind are available), when the share of students from these racial and ethnic groups accounted for 12.9% of degree recipients. The share among humanities associate’s degree recipients in 2015 was ten percentage points greater than the share at the baccalaureate level.
  • From 1989 to 2005, the share of humanities associate’s degrees awarded to traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups generally tracked the share for all fields combined. From 2006 to 2015, however, the share in humanities rose slightly faster than that for all associate’s degrees, bringing the humanities’ share to two percentage points above that for all fields combined (32.1% compared to 30.1%).
  • The share of associate’s degree recipients from traditionally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups in the humanities (32%) was higher than the shares among students earning degrees in health/medical and natural sciences (25%) as well as the vocational and professional fields (29%). The category with the largest share of students from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups (42%) was the “other/unknown” category, with minority students being particularly well-represented among social service degree recipients.
  • In 2015 the share of humanities associate’s degrees earned by women (61.7%) was similar to the overall share of degrees earned by women in all fields combined (60.7%; Indicator II-a5). The percentage of humanities associate’s degrees granted to women was almost identical to the share among bachelor’s degree recipients in the field.
  • The health/medical and natural sciences had the largest share of women earning associate’s degrees in 2015 (77.8%), though that percentage was the lowest level for that field recorded since 1987—the first year for which data of this kind were collected (and when the share was almost 85%). A large share of the women receiving associate’s degrees in this field earned them in nursing and health administration. In comparison, the share of women earning associate’s degrees in the humanities rose from 57.3% in 1987 to a high of 63.5% in 2004 and then fell to 61.7% in 2015. The share of women earning degrees in the vocational and professional fields was almost the same in 2015 as in 1987 (in the vicinity of 47.5%). In most years during 1989–2015 time period, the share remained within a percentage point of 50%.
II-a4: Percentage of Associate’s Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups,* Selected Academic Fields, 1989–2015

* 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-a5: Percentage of Associate’s Degrees Awarded to Women, Selected Academic Fields, 1987–2015
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 integrated science and engineering resources data system, WebCASPAR. Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).
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