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Indicator II-19 History Degree Completions
NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators, http://HumanitiesIndicators.org."
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Figures depicting history degree counts and the discipline’s share of all degrees have been updated with data for academic years 2007–2008 and 2008–2009 (4/6/2011).

See the
Note on Data Used to Calculate Discipline-Specific Degree Counts and Shares, the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups, the Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population, the Note on the Definition of Advanced Degrees, and the NSF and CIP Discipline Code Catalog (for an inventory of the specific degree programs included by the Humanities Indicators under the heading of “History”).

With approximately 45,000 bachelor’s degrees awarded, 1971 was a banner year for the nation’s undergraduate history programs (Figure II-19a),1 the high point of a strong trend of increased enrollments during the latter half of the 1960s. But in 1972, the number of history degrees began to drop, and the ensuing decline, which lasted well into the 1980s, was as precipitous as the earlier rise had been. In 1985, the nadir for history as measured by degree completions, the nation’s history departments awarded only 16,142 bachelor’s degrees. This number subsequently increased—markedly so in the early 1990s and again beginning in 2002—bringing the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2009 to 77% of the early-1970s high.

Figure II-19a, Full Size
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With approximately 45,000 bachelor’s degrees awarded, 1971 was a banner year for the nation’s undergraduate history programs (Figure II-19a), 1 the high point of a strong trend of increased enrollments during the latter half of the 1960s. But in 1972, the number of history degrees began to drop, and the ensuing decline, which lasted well into the 1980s, was as precipitous as the earlier rise had been. In 1985, the nadir for history as measured by degree completions, the nation’s history departments awarded only 16,142 bachelor’s degrees. This number subsequently increased—markedly so in the early 1990s and again beginning in 2002—bringing the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2009 to 77% of the early-1970s high.

Figure II-19a, Full Size
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History’s share of all undergraduate degrees experienced a similarly sharp decline through the mid-1980s and has remained well below the record levels reached in the late 1960s. Although history awarded 5.7% of all bachelor’s degrees in 1967, this share had decreased to 1.6% by 1985. Thereafter, despite growth in the number of bachelor’s completions in history, steady increases in the total number of bachelor’s degree completions kept history’s share in the vicinity of 2% of all bachelor’s degrees from 1986 to 2009.

Degree completions at the master’s and doctorate levels followed a similar trajectory up through the mid-1980s (Figures II-19b and II-19c). At the master’s level, the first wave of recovery from the 1980s slump crested at roughly the same time and was similar in magnitude to that observed at the undergraduate level. But the second wave did not bring master’s completions as close to their historic high. At the crest of this wave, in 2009, the discipline’s master’s degree completions reached only 67% of their 1969 peak.

At the doctoral level, the initial recovery reached its zenith later but was more complete, bringing the number of Ph.D. completions to 87% of its peak value in 2000. The following decade brought fairly consistent declines followed by marked upticks in completions in 2008 and 2009, with the number of degrees awarded in this latter year constituting 81% of the 1973 level.

As with bachelor’s degrees, history’s share of all master’s and doctoral degrees during the 1985–2009 period remained near the dramatically reduced levels of the 1980s. In 2009, history degrees represented 0.5% of all master’s and first professional degrees, down from 2.4% in 1967. At its height in 1970, history’s share of all Ph.D.’s was 3.5%. In 2009 the discipline’s share was 1.5%.

Figure II-19b, Full Size
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Figure II-19c, Full Size
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Data describing the distribution of history degrees by ethnicity are available only as far back as 1995. (For earlier years, such data can be disaggregated only by broad disciplinary grouping; history is included among the social sciences.) At the bachelor’s level, although the share of history degrees awarded to members of traditionally underrepresented racial/ethnic groups increased slightly over the latter half of the 1990s, it subsequently leveled off and then declined, for a net increase of only two percentage points from 1995 to 2007 (Figure II-19d). Growth in the share of history degrees awarded to such students at the master’s and doctoral degree levels was somewhat greater, with the percentage increasing by three and six points (Figures II-19e and II-19f). In 2007, approximately one-tenth of all master’s degrees and doctoral degrees were awarded to students from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. The same was true of doctoral degrees. (For an explanation of how these percentages were calculated, see the Note on the Calculation of Shares of Degrees Awarded to Members of Traditionally Underrepresented Racial/Ethnic Groups. For information regarding the racial/ethnic composition of the total U.S. population, see Note on the Racial/Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Young Adult Population.

Figure II-19d, Full Size
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Figure II-19e, Full Size
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Figure II-19f, Full Size
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Between 1966 and 2007, the percentage of history degrees earned by women increased at all levels, although most dramatically so in the case of Ph.D.’s. At that level, women’s share grew from 12% to 40%, bringing their representation to a level on par with that of bachelor’s recipients (Figure II-19g). The gender distribution of degrees came closest to being equal at the master’s level. In 2007, 48% of history master’s degrees were awarded to women.

Figure II-19g, Full Size
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Note

1 The degree counts presented as part of the Humanities Indicators do not include so-called double major degrees. When degrees are earned concurrently in this way, only the first degree is counted. Although second degrees are not common (in the 2006–2007 academic year, they accounted for 5.2% of all degree completions), anecdotal evidence suggests that a preponderance of such degrees are in the humanities. Second-degree data first became available via WebCASPAR in November 2010. If resources permit, an analysis of these data will be conducted in 2011.

Data on the number of students completing minors are not gathered as part of the data collection program from which these degree completion counts are drawn, 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).

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 Discipline-Specific Degree Counts and Shares

The data that form the basis of these indicators are drawn from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics’ (NCES) Higher Education General Information System (HEGIS) and its successor, the Integrated Postsecondary Educational Data System (IPEDS), 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 this major data collection program, see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/). The HEGIS/IPEDS degree-completion data going back to 1966 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. The NSF has traditionally used the NCES data to tabulate science and engineering degree awards as part of its Science and Engineering Indicators Program, which since 1973 has issued a biennial report designed to provide public and private policymakers with a broad base of quantitative information about the U.S. science, engineering, and technology enterprise.

The NSF has developed a set of standardized disciplinary categories that can be used across the various data sources it relies upon to construct its indicators. Because the NSF focuses on trends in science and engineering education, its disciplinary classification is most detailed in these areas. The utility of the NSF system for the purposes of the Humanities Indicators (HI) is limited. For example, the NSF scheme does not distinguish between the academic study of the arts, considered by the HI to be part of the humanities, and art performance. The HI thus cannot include in its tally those degrees conferred in the areas of musicology, art history, film studies, and drama history/criticism. Moreover, while the HI considers such disciplines as archeology, women’s studies, gay and lesbian studies, and Holocaust studies to be part of the humanities field, NSF categorizes them as social sciences. Additionally, NSF places interdisciplinary degrees in areas such as general humanities and liberal studies in a broad “Other” category that includes degrees for many disciplines that are not within the purview of the humanities as conceptualized by the HI. Consequently, such interdisciplinary degrees, along with those mentioned above, cannot be captured in humanities degree counts from 1966 to 1986.

For 1987 and later years (1995 and later for data on the race/ethnicity of degree recipients), however, NSF also categorizes earned degrees according to the more detailed Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), which permits a more precise count of humanities degrees; that is, a count that includes degrees in all those programs that are part of academic disciplines included within the scope of the humanities for the purposes of the HI. (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.) The CIP was first developed by NCES in 1980 as a way to account 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.

For the purposes of the Humanities Indicators the CIP has several advantages over the NSF classification system. For example, because the NSF system groups degrees in the nonsectarian study of religion with those awarded in programs designed to prepare students for religious vocations and because the latter type of degree is much more common, the HI cannot include what the NSF considers to be degrees in religion in the humanities degree counts for years prior to 1987. With CIP-coded data, however, 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 all the excluded disciplines mentioned above, from art history to Holocaust studies, in its counts of humanities degrees from 1987 onward. For an inventory of the NSF and CIP disciplinary categories included by the HI under the broad academic field headings (“humanities,” “natural sciences,” etc.) used throughout Part II of the HI, 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 constructing indicators that use IPEDS data to track historical trends in the academic humanities, the HI has employed completion data that were classified using both the NSF and CIP systems. In these cases, either a note accompanying the chart or a break in the trend line indicates where estimates based on the NSF classification system leave off and those based on CIP begin. For those indicators reporting degree data gathered in 1987 or more recently (1995 or more recently for the charts and tables describing the proportions of all degrees received by members of racial/ethnic minority groups), CIP-coded data are used.

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 data for that year.

The degree counts presented as part of the HI 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).


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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
Hispanic
Native American or Alaska Native
13.7%
5.6%
17.7%
0.8%

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 http://www.census.gov/popest/data/intercensal/national/nat2010.html.

* 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.

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

“Hispanic”
“Native American or Alaska Native”

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Census-Defined
“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 http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/news_room/ana_Changes_to_10_25_2007_169.asp for details.

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