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It all comes back to Women, doesn't it?

The Atlantic just ran an article that essentially explains that the reason the humanities are declining is because more women are going into the STEM or pre-professional programs. This is the same explanation that is given for the decline of teaching in our public schools. I DO think this hypothesis does have some traction, especially when i think about the history of women's employment in the US. But what's more disconcerting is that men have not filled the gap left by women leaving for these other fields.

For those who don't want to read the whole article here are the key passages:

Though the decline of the humanities is getting a lot of attention now, the major drop in enrollments happened between 1970 and 1985. Humanities enrollments dipped from 17.2 percent of all degrees in 1967 to around seven percent in the early 1980s. In 2011, humanities degrees still constituted 6.9 percent of all bachelor's degrees. In other words, the decline stabilized ten years before current freshmen were even born.

So the rhetoric of a deep crisis in the humanities does not bear out in the numbers. As overall enrollment has increased at institutions of higher education, very similar percentages of the college-age population have graduated with a degree in English over the past twenty years. In fact, there were proportionally more English majors amongst 21-year-olds in 2011 than in 1981.

As Ben Schmidt, assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, has shown in a series of great graphs, women's choices of major really explain most of the drop. Starting in the late 1970s, women became the majority of the undergraduate student body at colleges and universities in the United States. By the 2000s, women made up around 57 percent of undergraduates. Women's decisions became increasingly important, and those choices started to change radically.

Some commentators have argued that women should turn to STEM subjects to acquire those capabilities and to secure better pay and professional options. Do we need more women to study tech subjects? Of course. In 2011, women formed only 27 percent of all workers in STEM jobs that generally offered higher than average pay. But others have shown that humanities graduates face no worse unemployment rates than computer scientists or economists.


So there you have it, it doesn't matter what you major in, just as long as you can do things for your employers!

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