Patterns by Gender and by Mobility


In comparison to wide differences marked by field and program, comparatively little variation exists in the employment patterns of men and women. A slightly larger proportion of women in the sample held tenure track employment at four-year institutions (50.0 percent for men as compared to 51.9 percent for women), and a slightly larger proportion of men occupied faculty jobs at two-year institutions or off the tenure track (21.6 percent as compared to 18.1 percent) (Figure 7).10

Figure 7Women in the sample were slightly more likely to be employed outside of faculty positions (25.0 percent of the women and 23.9 percent of the men). We found only a few significant differences in the employment patterns of men and women who found employment. The proportion employed as K–12 teachers, for instance, was nearly identical (2.8 percent of women compared to 3.0 percent of men). Likewise, little difference emerged in the proportion employed at nonprofits (3.6 percent of women compared to 3.2 percent of men).

Notable differences surfaced in five categories. Men were twice as likely to work for the federal government (4.1 percent as compared to 1.8 percent in the sample), and slightly more likely to be employed in for-profit business (3.5 percent compared to 2.4 percent) or state and local governments (1.0 percent compared to 0.4 percent). Conversely, we found a greater percentage of women employed as either independent scholars (3.6 percent compared to 1.2 percent) or in some other self-employed capacity (2.7 percent compared with 1.9 percent).

The differences between genders looked a bit more pronounced among those who graduated in the same area of specialization (Table 3, PDF). The percentage of men and women working in tenure-track faculty positions at four-year institutions was similar for the fields of Latin American (65.6 percent of women and 65.3 percent of men), North American (44.4 percent of women and 43.7 percent of men), and African history (64.7 percent of women compared to 66.7 percent of men). But we found greater disparities in the tenure-track status of those who studied the history of the Middle East (75 percent of women and 82.5 percent of men), world (40.0 percent of women and 47.4 percent of men), and Europe (55.7 percent of women and 49.1 percent of men).

Mobility and the Academic Job Market

Figure 8Alongside the variables of field specialization and institution, prospective graduate students should also consider their potential mobility after completing their degree. Given the often uneven distribution of jobs in any given subject area, an applicant’s ability to move to a new location can play a crucial role in his or her success on the job market. Almost half of the PhDs with faculty or administrative positions (45.7 percent) were employed in the same region as the school that had conferred their degree, and much of the movement that did occur was to an adjacent region.11 But a substantial difference arose between faculty on the tenure track, and faculty in non-tenure-track or administrative positions. Most faculty members in non-tenure-track or administrative positions were employed in the same region in which they had earned their PhD (61.1 percent), nearly twice the proportion of those employed in tenured or tenure-track positions (Figure 8).

Graduates from the top-ranked programs appeared significantly more mobile than PhD recipients from other programs. While 22.0 percent overall of the PhDs holding academic appointments were still in the same region as their degrees, nearly a third of PhDs from the second tier, and just over 40 percent of students from other programs, remained nearby.

Specialists in North American history showed less inclination to move than did their counterparts in other geographic specialties; 50.1 percent remained in the same region as their degree. Among all other subject areas, only 32.4 percent had not moved out of the region of their degree.

Part of the difference reflected proximity to a large number of other academic institutions. Graduates from programs in the less populous regions of the Rocky Mountains and Southwest demonstrated higher levels of mobility than the average, but also had placement rates into tenure-track employment nearly 10 percent lower than the average for other regions.

Program rankings made a difference in the type of geographic destination as well. Among history PhDs from the top quartile of programs who worked as faculty, 42.1 percent found employment in large or mid-size cities, while 30.8 percent of the academically employed students from programs in the lower half of the rankings were similarly situated. Thus, willingness to relocate to small towns and other rural locations could factor into one’s success on the job market.

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10. Our sample included 969 women (38.7 percent) and 1,523 men (60.9 percent) with 8 unknown. This gender breakdown is consistent with data the AHA collected on the number of women who earned degrees during the years examined in this study; see Robert B. Townsend, “A Profile of the History Profession, 2010,” Perspectives on History (October 2010).

11. For this survey, we used the eight geographic regions—New England, Mid East (Mid Atlantic), Southeast, Plains, Great Lakes, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, Far West—in the IPEDS institutional characteristics database. Since we relied on the IPEDS data for assignments, we do not have comparable data for the 24 percent not employed at academic institutions.