Before second-wave feminism and the major civil rights legislation of the early ’70s ushered women into business and law firms, medical schools, and the like, nearly every college student with two X chromosomes majored in education (about 40 percent) or in the humanities (close to 50 percent). In 1966, on the cusp of major changes, under 10 percent of pre-professional degrees went to women. As social movements opened doors outside the academy, a landslide occurred within it. The number of women majoring in the humanities dropped by half between the mid-’60s and early-2000s. The flip side is that today, women make up about half of all pre-professional degrees. “You’d have to be pretty tone-deaf to point to [women’s] ability to make that choice as a sign of cultural malaise,” Schmidt observes.
Allie Jones adds:
In other words, the supposed decline of the humanities may be little more than an increase in choice for women, who may well want to become doctors instead of, say, English teachers. There seems to be very little troubling about that.
Colleen Flaherty notes that the share of women earning undergraduate degrees in education has also plummetted since the mid-’60s, from 40 percent in 1965 to about 10 percent today. Previous Dish on the state of the humanities here.
(Chart: Benjamin Schmidt)