Publication Date

October 1, 1997

The proportion of history Ph.D.’s employed in the academy fell to its lowest level in 20 years, while salaries for younger historians have risen at a slower pace than those of their more senior colleagues, according to a new survey by the National Research Council (NRC), The biennial survey of humanities Ph.D.'s provides the most comprehensive data on demographics within the humanities, including history, The NRC conducted the most recent survey in 1995, and released its findings in August.

Among the survey's most troubling findings:

  • The proportion of history Ph.D.’s employed in four-year colleges and universities fell to its lowest level on record (64.4 percent), well behind other humanities fields including English (68 percent), modern languages (69.9 percent), and philosophy (69.7 percent).
  • The drop in the proportion of history Ph.D.'s employed in the academy occurred even as the actual number employed rose 8 percent, front 14,400 in 1993 to 15,600 in 1995.
  • The median salary for history Ph.D.'s rose 3.7 percent between 1993 and 1995 (from $48,200 to $50,000), This was better than the other humanities, where the average only rose 2.9 percent (from $43,700 to $45,000), However, for historians less than 15 years after the degree, the average salary grew more slowly—rising by about 3 percent.
  • The proportion of history Ph.D.'s unable to find work or working in a part-time capacity rose slightly-from 1.8 to 2.1 percent unemployed, and from 7.5 to 7.8 percent working part-time. However, the same numbers for recent Ph.D.'s (those who received the PhD, between 1990 and 1994) actually dropped, The unemployment rate fell from 3,4 to 3 percent, while the number working part-time fell more dramatically from 11.4 to 6 percent.
  • Female Ph.D.'s are not doing as well as their male counterparts in employment or salary, with 10.2 percent working part-time (as opposed to 6.8 percent of men) and 2.6 percent unemployed (as compared to 1.6 percent of men). In addition, the average salary for' female history Ph.D.'s ($43,000) is well below that of their male counterparts ($51,000). Overall, the demographics of the profession appear to have changed very little between 1993 and 1995.
  • The number of history Ph.D.'s resident in the United States and under the age of 75 rose from 22,500 in 1993 to 23,800 in 1995, Only the field of English language and literature had a larger cohort, with 28,300.
  • History still has the oldest cohort in the humanities, with 40.8 percent age 55 or above, and only 3.9 percent age 34 or younger. In the humanities at large, 5.4 percent are below the age of 35, and 35.3 percent are above the age of 55.
  • Women account for 21.3 percent of history Ph.D.'s. This is up from 20.8 percent in 1993, but still well below the average of 35.4 percent in the humanities as a whole.
  • Racial and ethnic minorities comprise 4.8 percent of history Ph.D.'s, down slightly from 5 percent two years before, and below the average of 6.5 percent for the humanities.

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