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Indicator II-12 Racial/Ethnic Distribution of Advanced Degrees in the Humanities
NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators,"
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Updated (3/6/2013) with data for academic year 2010 (July 1, 2009–June 30, 2010).

See the
Note on Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares, the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees, the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups, and the Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population.

The percentage of advanced degrees in the humanities awarded to students from traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups increased from 1995 to 2010 (Figure II-12a; for an explanation of how these percentages were determined, see the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups; for a point of comparison, see the Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population.) In 2010, the share of humanities master’s degrees awarded to these students was 12.1%, up from 7.9% in the mid-1990s. In 2010, the share of humanities doctorates completed by these students was 10.0%, approximately four percentage points higher than in 1995, but down slightly from 2007’s historic high of 10.7% (Figure II-12b).

Figure II-12a, Full Size
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Figure II-12b, Full Size
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At the master’s level, the share of humanities degrees going to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups tended to fall somewhat short of that for all fields during this period, with the gap growing over time. In the case of doctoral degrees, the percentage of humanities awards to these students was consistently close to the percentage in all fields combined.

Figure II-12c depicts the racial/ethnic composition of the master’s and professional degree recipient population for selected fields in 2010. In that year, while the humanities awarded a small percentage of master’s degrees to African American students (4.9%) relative to several other fields, the humanities had one of the higher rates of receipt by Hispanics (6.6%). African Americans completed 4.0% of all doctorates in the humanities, a markedly lower share than in the education and social service fields but well above the rates for the natural sciences, engineering, and fine arts (Figure II-12d). The proportion of humanities doctorates awarded to Hispanic students was 5.4%.

Figure II-12c, Full Size
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Figure II-12d, Full Size
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In 2010, the humanities field awarded 3.7% of its master’s degrees to students of Asian descent. This was a smaller share than for any field except education and the social service professions. The situation for students of Asian descent was similar at the doctoral level. At 0.7%, the share of humanities master’s degrees completed by American Indian and Native Alaskan students was greater than the proportion in every field other than the social service professions. A similar proportion of humanities doctorates was awarded to these students. No field other than fine and performing arts awarded a greater share of its doctoral degrees to students of native origin.

One of the most striking features of the 2010 data is the share of advanced humanities degree awards to temporary residents. The attraction of U.S. graduate programs in science and engineering to international students has been widely acknowledged. Less well appreciated is the fact that U.S. humanities departments also bestowed a nonnegligible share of their degrees (8.2% at the master’s level, 17.0% at the doctoral) on these international students.

Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Glossary, master’s degrees are “awards that require the successful completion of a program of study of at least the full-time equivalent of 1 academic year, but not more than 2 academic years of work beyond the bachelor’s degree.”

The NCES, which collects the degree completion data presented as part of the Humanities Indicators, defines first professional degrees as those awards that require completion of a program that meets all the following criteria: (1) completion of the academic requirements to begin practice in a profession; (2) at least two years of college work prior to entering the program; and (3) a total of at least six academic years of college work to complete the degree program, including prior required college work plus the length of the professional program itself. According to NCES, the following ten fields award first professional degrees:
Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.)
Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)
Law (LL.B. or J.D.)
Medicine (M.D.)
Optometry (O.D.)
Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., or Pod.D.)
Theology (M.Div., M.H.L., B.D., or Ordination)
Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M. or V.M.D.)
Although some fields (e.g., library science, hospital administration, and social work) require specialized degrees for employment at the professional level, NCES does not count degrees in these fields as first professional degrees; instead, they are treated as master’s degrees.

Whereas all doctorates had previously been included in a single category, for academic years 2008–2009 and 2009–2010 NCES gave schools the option of employing a new classification system that distinguishes among three types of doctoral degrees:
Research/Scholarship—A Ph.D. or other doctoral degree that requires advanced work beyond the master’s level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research, or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating scholarly achievement;
Professional Practice—A doctoral degree conferred upon completion of a program providing the knowledge and skills for the recognition, credentialing, or licensing required for professional practice; or
Other—A doctoral degree that does not meet the definition of the research/scholarship or professional practice doctorate.
Schools could classify certain degrees that had historically been treated as first professional degrees as either “Professional Practice” doctoral degrees (as in the case of medical degrees, for example) or master’s degrees (as in the case of advanced, nondoctoral degrees in theology).

To ensure comparability with previous years, for 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 the Humanities Indicators counted as doctorates all of those degrees classified by postsecondary institutions as “Doctorate Degree,” “Doctorate Degree—Research/Scholarship,” or “Doctorate Degree—Other.” The HI treated as “master’s and professional degrees” those degrees classified by schools as “Doctorate Degree—Professional Practice,” “First Professional Degree,” or “Master’s Degree.”

For academic year 2010–2011, NCES eliminated the “first professional degree” category. The agency now requires schools to use the three-category system described above to classify all advanced degrees other than master’s degrees.

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Note on Data Used to Calculate Advanced Humanities Degree Counts and Shares

The bulk of the data that form the basis of this indicator is drawn from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS; 1966–1986) and its successor, the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS; 1987–present), through which institutions of higher learning report on the numbers and characteristics of students completing degree programs (as well as a variety of other topics; for more on IPEDS, see The HEGIS/IPEDS degree-completion data have been made accessible to decision-makers, researchers, and the general public by the National Science Foundation (NSF) via its online data analysis tool WebCASPAR.

Degree-completion data for years 1948 through 1965 were derived from the Survey of Earned Degrees, which was first administered by the Office of Education (the Department of Education’s predecessor) and later by NCES. The Survey of Earned Degrees data were culled from printed publications, because the information is not included in WebCASPAR. For the trend lines extending back to 1948, data are presented only for a limited portfolio of humanities disciplines, because the academic discipline classification systems employed by NCES in its reporting on the Survey of Earned Degrees and HEGIS are not fine-grained enough to capture the full complement of disciplines considered by the Humanities Indicators (HI) to be within the scope of the humanities. (For an inventory of the disciplines and activities treated as part of the humanities by the HI, see the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators.)

For 1987 and later years (1995 and later for data on the race/ethnicity of degree recipients), however, WebCASPAR categorizes earned degrees according to the more detailed Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP). The CIP was first developed by NCES in 1980 as a way of accounting for the tremendous variety of degree programs offered by American institutions of higher learning and has been revised three times since its introduction, most recently in 2009 (this version is referred to as “CIP 2010”). The CIP has also been adopted by Statistics Canada as its standard disciplinary classification system. An analysis of completions using CIP permits the HI to include earned degrees in a substantially greater number of the disciplines considered by the HI to be part of the humanities field.

With CIP-coded data academic disciplines such as comparative religion can be separated from vocational programs such as theology and thus can be included in the humanities degree tally. Additionally, when using CIP-coded data, the HI can include degrees in such disciplines as archeology, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, and Holocaust studies in its counts of humanities degrees from 1987 onward.1 For an inventory of the CIP disciplinary categories included by the HI under the field heading of “humanities” (as well as those categories of the NSF-developed taxonomy of academic disciplines that are the basis of the HI’s tabulations of 1) degrees in nonhumanities fields and 2) certain tabulations of humanities degrees for years 1966–1986), see the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog. This catalog also indicates which degree programs the HI includes within specific humanities disciplines (e.g., for the purposes of the HI, English degrees include those classified under CIP as being in “English Language and Literature,” “American Literature,” and “Creative Writing,” among others).

In the case of several of the degree-related indicators, the humanities are compared to certain other fields such as the sciences and engineering. The nature of these fields is specified in the Statement on the Scope of the “Humanities” for Purposes of the Humanities Indicators. These broad fields do not encompass all postsecondary programs. Therefore, where fields are being compared in terms of their respective shares of all degrees, the percentages will not add up to 100%. Also, none of the graphs showing change over time in the share of degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented ethnic/minority groups includes a data point for the academic year 1999, because the NCES did not release such data for that year.

The bachelor’s degree counts presented in Figures II-1a and II-1b do not include “second majors,” because NCES began collecting data about these degrees only in 2001. The HI deals separately with the issue of second majors in Figure II-1c (“Humanities Bachelor’s Degrees Earned as ‘Second Majors,’ 2001–2010”).

Data on the number of students completing minors are not collected as part of IPEDS, but such information was compiled for selected humanities disciplines as part of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences–sponsored Humanities Departmental Survey (HDS; see the HDS final report, page 8, Table 12).


1 For those indicators reporting only degree data for years 1987 and onward (1995 and onward for the charts and tables describing the proportions of all degrees received by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic minority groups), CIP-coded data are always the basis of the humanities degree counts presented.

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Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups

For each academic discipline or field, the share of all degrees earned by members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups was calculated by dividing the number of degrees completed by students identified by their institutions as African American (non-Hispanic), Hispanic, or American Indian/Alaska Native by the total number of degree completions in that field. Not included in the count of traditionally underrepresented minorities were (1) students of Asian or Pacific Islander ancestry, (2) students designated by their educational institutions as being of “Other/Unknown Ethnicity,”* and (3) international students—that is, temporary residents who were in the United States for the express purpose of attending school and who were likely to return to their home countries upon graduation (significant numbers of these individuals may be of African or Hispanic background, but the National Center for Education Statistics , the compiler of these data, does not request that institutions of higher learning collect racial/ethnicity data for such students).

* According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the compiler of these data, a student is assigned to this category only if he or she does not select a racial/ethnic designation and his or her educational institution finds it impossible to place the student in one of the NCES-defined racial/ethnic categories during established enrollment procedures or in any post-enrollment identification or verification process. Over time the percentage of students categorized as “Other/Unknown” has grown, thereby reducing the ability of postsecondary institutions, policymakers, and the general public to reliably track the racial/ethnic diversity of degree recipients.

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Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population (18–30 Years Old)

Using information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Humanities Indicators has calculated the following estimates of the share of the total national young adult population represented by each of the categories employed by the National Center for Education Statistics for the purpose of reporting the percentages of degrees awarded to students of different races/ethnicities* (estimates are for April 2010):

African American, Non-Hispanic
Asian or Pacific Islander
Native American or Alaska Native

Source: Data drawn from U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, “US-EST00INT-ALLDATA: Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010” (data file,September 2011), downloadable under the heading “Intercensal Estimates of the Resident Population by Single Year of Age, Sex, Race, and Hispanic Origin for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2010” at

* The racial/ethnic categorization scheme employed for the purposes of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which is the basis of the Humanities Indicators items dealing with the distribution of degree completions among racial/ethnic groups, and the system used by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates Division, which is the source of the information provided in this note, differ in important ways. Whereas IPEDS has traditionally used a “one-question” approach that requires institutions to use mutually exclusive reporting categories, one of which is “Hispanic,” the Census Bureau employs a “two-question” format that inquires separately about race and Hispanic origin. In further contrast to IPEDS, the Census Bureau permits respondents to select more than one race to describe themselves.

In view of these differences the Humanities Indicators could not develop size estimates for racial/ethnic groups that provide strictly comparable points of reference for the percentages supplied as part of Indicators II-4 and II-12. The following table indicates which Census-defined group(s) were used as the basis for the estimates provided in this note.

“African American, Non-Hispanic”
“Asian or Pacific Islander”

“Native American or Alaska Native”


“Not Hispanic, Black alone”
“Not Hispanic, Asian alone” and
“Not Hispanic, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone”
“Hispanic, White alone”
“Not Hispanic, American Indian and Alaska Native alone”

Beginning with the data collection for academic year 2011–2012, IPEDS required that institutions report information on degree completers’ race and ethnicity in a way similar to the Census Bureau and most other data collections sponsored by federal government agencies. See for details.

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