Light & Verity

Whither the humanities?

A downward trend in student majors.

A February article by Nathan Heller in the New Yorker has prompted much discussion about the decline of the humanities in American undergraduate education.

To get an idea of how the trend has played out here at Yale, we looked at the last 20 years of data on the majors of graduating Yale College seniors. As the chart at right shows, degrees in the arts and humanities division have dropped—from 46.7 percent of graduating seniors in 2001–02 to 22.5 percent in 2021–22. The trend is visible in the falling number of majors in the largest humanities departments: history (from 163 to 69) and English (from 79 to 42). While degrees in social sciences and life sciences have increased somewhat, the most dramatic growth has been in physical sciences and engineering, up from 10 percent to 23.9 percent. Much of that rise has been in computer science, up from 16 majors to 87.

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