Publication Date

December 1, 1993

As the accompanying article and tables indicate, data from the annual survey conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) chart another year of growth in the number of new Ph.D.'s awarded in history. This constitutes the third consecutive year of growth after the decline reported for 1989. According to the NRC (see Table 2), 725 individuals received doctorates in history in 1992, an increase of 10.2 percent over the number reported in 1991 and 35.5 percent above the 1989 level. The 1989 level was a record low—the lowest in at least two decades— while the 1992 cohort is the largest reported since 1980. Compilation of data on B.A.’s and M.A.’s in history lags behind— the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education are for 1991, indicating that the number of degrees in both categories continues to increase by between 10 and 11 percent annually.

According to NRC's demographic profile of the 1992 Ph.D. recipients, the percentage of history doctorates earned by women declined to 34.2 percent in 1992 after a record high of 37.5 percent in 1991 (see Table 3). Still, the 1992 figure is actually just slightly above the average for the previous nine years (34 percent) and marks the tenth straight year in which over 30 percent of the recipients of historydoctorates have been women.

The percentage of history doctorates earned by individuals from racial and ethnic minorities increased only slightly in 1991—from 8.0 percent in 1991 to 8.5 percent in 1992 (see Table 4). It is difficult to discuss trends in this area because of the relatively small numbers involved, but the 1992 level is slightly above both the average for the past ten years (8.2 percent) and that for the entire eighteen-year period for which we have reliable data (7.8 percent). In only two years has the percentage of minority recipients reached double digits-in 1989 (l0.7 percent) and 1987 (10.1 percent). Minorities earned a greater proportion of doctorates in other fields: 10 percent of humanities doctorates awarded in 1992 went to individuals from racial and ethnic minorities; 12.1 percent of social science doctorates were earned by minorities; and 13.9 percent of all Ph.D.’s were earned by minorities.

Meanwhile, the demand for historians continues to shrink. For the third year, the number of position announcements in the Employment Information section of Perspectives has decreased, hitting the lowest level in seven years. Table 6 charts changes in the gross number of ads placed in the newsletter in the fall months over the past eleven years. The number of ads increased for eight years, reaching a peak of 845 in 1990 before beginning to drop in 1991. The number of ads has declined this year another 2.8 percent, far less than the 19.9 percent reported last year but still down. In the past three years, the number of ads has dropped 29.1 percent from the 1990 peak, hitting the lowest level since 1986. At the same time, the number of positions posted for interviewing at the annual meeting Job Register has dropped as well—down by 26.9 percent as of last year.

The impact of the contracting job market can be seen in Table 7, which charts the status of postgraduation plans for recent doctorates. As the number of jobs advertised has declined, fewer historians have had jobs in hand upon completion of their doctorates. But while that percentage appears rather low and indeed is lower than that for all humanities doctorates (53.4 percent), it is higher than that for all doctorates (45.5 percent). Also, note that NRC data indicate that there continues to be little gender difference regarding the employment status of new Ph.D.’s-the percentage of female history doctorates with definite employment was only slightly higher than that of male history Ph.D.’s (54 percent compared to 52.2).

For a copy of the NRC's Summary Report 1992: Doctorate Recipients from United States Universities, contact the Doctorate Records Project, Office of Scientific and Engineering Personnel, National Research Council, Room TJ 2006, 2101 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20418.

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