Humanities Indicators
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K-12 Education  >  Primary- and Secondary-School Faculty
 
Demographic Characteristics of Humanities Teachers in Public Schools
(Updated October 2017)

The U.S. Department of Education’s National Teacher and Principal Survey provides a demographic snapshot of the primary- and secondary-school teachers working in public schools. The 2015–2016 data reveal that humanities teachers tend to be white, middle-aged women, although Hispanics are more amply represented in the humanities than in other subject areas.[1]

Findings and Trends

  • In the 2015–2016 school year, teachers of humanities subjects constituted approximately a fifth (21%) of the K–12 public-school teacher population. This percentage does not include “general” educators in the elementary and middle grades, most of whom spent a portion of their time teaching language arts, reading, history, and other humanities material. These general educators represented 44% of the K–12 public teaching corps.[2]
  • The age distribution of humanities teachers in public schools was similar to that of teachers in other subject areas, with the exception of career and technical education teachers, who tended to be older (Indicator I-10a). Teachers under 30 years of age represented 14% of the humanities teaching corps. Twenty-eight percent of humanities teachers were age 50 or older.
  • Like public K–12 teachers in all other subject areas but one, the majority of humanities teachers were female—though the gender imbalance was more pronounced in the humanities (Indicator I-10b). With a teaching force that was 76% female, the gender distribution of humanities teachers was most similar to that of arts teachers (including teachers of studio art, dance, drama, and music), 68% of whom were women. The most gender-balanced faculty, with a male to female ratio of 51% to 49%, was that of the behavioral and social sciences.
  • Students were highly likely to receive their earliest humanities education from women, as general educators were overwhelmingly (90%) female.
  • The racial composition of the public-school humanities teaching corps did not mirror that of the student population (Indicator I-10c). Public-school students were at least twice as likely as their teachers to be African American, Asian, or Native American. For instance, while 6% of humanities teachers identified as African American in the 2015–2016 school year, 15.5% of K–12 students were identified by their parents/guardians as such.
  • In comparison to public-school teachers in other subjects, humanities teachers were substantially more likely to be Hispanic (Indicator I-10d). Nevertheless, the share of humanities teachers who were Hispanic (13%) was only half as large as the share of American school children who were of Hispanic descent.
I-10a: Age Distribution of Teachers in Public Primary and Secondary Schools,* by Main Teaching Assignment, 2015–2016

* Includes regular full- and part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, and long-term substitutes.
** General educators are those teachers who identified their main teaching assignment as "early childhood or pre-K, general," "elementary grades, general," "middle grades, general," or "special education, any."

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Teacher and Principal Survey, “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2015–2016. Data analyzed by NCES staff at the request of the Humanities Indicators (with special thanks to Maura Spiegelman at NCES for her generous assistance). Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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I-10b: Gender Distribution of Teachers in Public Primary and Secondary Schools,* by Main Teaching Assignment, 2015–2016

* Includes regular full- and part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, and long-term substitutes.
** General educators are those teachers who identified their main teaching assignment as "early childhood or pre-K, general," "elementary grades, general," "middle grades, general," or "special education, any."

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Teacher and Principal Survey, “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2015–2016. Data analyzed by NCES staff at the request of the Humanities Indicators (with special thanks to Maura Spiegelman at NCES for her generous assistance). Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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I-10c: Percentage of Minority Humanities Teachers in Public Primary and Secondary Schools,* Compared with Student Population, 2015–2016

* Includes regular full- and part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, and long-term substitutes.
** All reported percentages exclude students and teachers of Hispanic ethnicity or more than one race.

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): National Teacher and Principal Survey, “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2015–2016 (Data analyzed by NCES staff at the request of the Humanities Indicators, with special thanks to Maura Spiegelman at NCES for her generous assistance.); and Digest of Education Statistics, “Table 203.50. Enrollment and percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and region: Selected years, fall 1995 through fall 2026,” https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_203.50.asp, accessed 9/20/2017. Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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I-10d: Percentage of Teachers in Public Primary and Secondary Schools Who Are of Hispanic Ethnicity,* by Main Teaching Assignment and Compared with the Student Population, 2015–2016

* Includes regular full- and part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, and long-term substitutes. Includes regular full- and part-time teachers, itinerant teachers, and long-term substitutes. Percentages include all teachers and students of Hispanic ethnicity, irrespective of race.
** General educators are those teachers who identified their main teaching assignment as "early childhood or pre-K, general," "elementary grades, general," "middle grades, general," or "special education, any."

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES): National Teacher and Principal Survey, “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2015–2016 (Data analyzed by NCS staff at the request of the Humanities Indicators, with special thanks to Maura Spiegelman at NCES for her generous assistance.); and Digest of Education Statistics, “Table 203.50. Enrollment and percentage distribution of enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity and region: Selected years, fall 1995 through fall 2026,” https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d16/tables/dt16_203.50.asp, accessed 9/20/2017. Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (www.humanitiesindicators.org).

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Endnotes

[1] Due to changes in the survey, it is not possible to track teacher demographics over time.
[2] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), National Teacher and Principal Survey, “Public School Teacher Data File,” 2015–2016. Data analyzed by NCES staff at the request of the Humanities Indicators. The Indicators would like to thank Maura Spiegelman at NCES for her generous assistance.