The Post-College Fortunes of Humanities Graduates

Christopher Maggio, Frederick Tucker, and Paul Attewell (under review)


Using recent data from the National Survey of College Graduates, we examine several post-college outcomes for bachelor’s graduates in the humanities, compared with other majors. Humanities graduates fare worse in terms of family formation, employment, and post-college earnings. These drawbacks occur despite the fact that, on average, graduates in the humanities come from more privileged family backgrounds, have had stronger academic preparation in high school, and carry less student debt. Nevertheless, humanities baccalaureates earn substantially less than their classmates with other majors, long after graduation. They are also less likely to be married and are significantly less satisfied with their jobs, on several dimensions. We discuss these findings in the light of the theory of ‘risky majors’ and examine whether graduate and professional degrees mitigate some of the disadvantages. We also provide direct comparisons to arts and education majors, who share some but not all of these difficulties.

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