Humanities Indicators
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Higher Education  >  Undergraduate and Graduate Degree Information for Specific Humanities Disciplines
Gender Distribution of Degrees in English Language and Literature
(Updated April 2016)

Women have earned a majority of English language and literature degrees at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels at least since the late 1960s, and reached a majority among doctoral degree recipients in 1981.

Findings and Trends

  • Women have received a majority of bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English since at least 1966. Women have accounted for two-thirds of the degree recipients at the master’s level since the early 1980s and at the bachelor’s level for as long as these data have been collected (Indicator II-18g).
  • Women were a distinct minority among doctorate degree recipients in English in the late 1960s (receiving only about a quarter of the Ph.D.’s in the discipline), but the share grew steadily through the 1970s. By the early 1980s, English departments were awarding doctorates to men and women in equal numbers. Thereafter, the share of doctorates awarded to women continued to increase, but more slowly, reaching a peak of 64% in 2008 before declining to 60% of the total in 2014.
II-18g: Percentages of Bachelor's and Graduate Degrees in English Language and Literature Awarded to Women, 1967–2014*

* The gaps in the trend lines indicate a shift from the National Science Foundation’s disciplinary classification system to the National Center for Education Statistics’ Classification of Instructional Programs. Please see the Note on the Data Used to Calculate the Number of Degree Completions in English Language and Literature and in Languages and Literatures Other than English for an explanation of the differences between the two systems that are most pertinent to this indicator. Data not published for all years. Degree counts and shares do not include second majors.

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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