The Humanities in American Life: Insights for Philosophy
- 23% of adults often think about or researched the ethical aspects of a choice in their life. (Another 31% do so sometimes.)
- The youngest adults, ages 18 to 29, are somewhat more likely to engage ethical questions than older Americans, and Americans with a college degree are more likely to do so than those with a high school diploma or less.
- While 77% of Americans have a favorable impression of the term philosophy, less than a third have a very favorable view (29%). The latter share is smaller than for every other humanities discipline—and identical to the share for statistics.
- 37% of Black Americans have a very favorable impression of philosophy, compared to 24% of Asian Americans and 27% of White Americans.
- Americans in the lowest income quartile are somewhat more likely to have a very favorable view of philosophy than those in the highest quartile.
- Self-identified political liberals are substantially more likely than conservatives to have a very favorable impression of philosophy. While 41% of liberals have such a favorable impression of the term, only 17% of conservatives are similarly disposed.
In Childhood and Education
- Given a range of humanities and nonhumanities subjects to choose from (and allowed to select more than one), 25% of Americans wish they had taken more philosophy courses.
- Women are no more likely to wish they had studied more philosophy than men, but Black and Hispanic Americans are somewhat more likely than White Americans to wish they had taken more classes in the subject.
- Americans identifying as politically liberal are twice as likely as conservatives to wish they had studied more philosophy.
- 29% of Americans recall their parents often discussing ethical issues, though that is smaller than the share who remembered their parents rarely or never engaging in those conversations (36%).
- 87% of Americans feel that teaching ethics to K–12 students is important. An identical share feel it is important that children be taught logic.
- Though a large majority of every age group consider the teaching of ethics important, older Americans are more likely than the youngest adults to see the value of teaching the subject to children.
- Approximately three-quarters of Americans believe ethics ought to be taught both in school and outside (in the home, church, or community).
- A third of those who believe ethics ought to be taught in school feel that elementary school is too early for children to begin learning the subject. The share for logic is 39%.
These findings capture only a small slice of the larger study. Visit https://bit.ly/HumSurvey for the full report of the survey findings, including responses to questions about the humanities as a whole, visualizations comparing history to the other subjects, and a detailed summary of the responses to every question by gender, age, and other key demographics.
A Guide to Interpreting These Findings
The findings described here are based on a sample of Americans, weighted to produce estimates for the US adult population as a whole. The reported values are estimates and thus have a measure of error (also an estimate) associated with them.
By virtue of the error associated with each estimate (either for the entire adult population or a particular demographic group), observed differences between them may be due to the sample that happened to be drawn for this survey rather than a difference between the actual values in the adult population, which could be known only if a census were conducted. For this reason, only differences between estimates that were found to be statistically significant at the 5% level are noted.
Statistical significance gauges the reliability of an observed difference between two estimates. It indicates how certain one can be that the difference between the two values could actually be found in the adult population and is not due to chance (i.e., not due to the particular sample of adults that was surveyed as part of the study). If a difference between two groups (e.g., Asian and White Americans, or Asian Americans and the entire adult population) is significant at the 5% level, it means that if there really were really no difference between the two groups, a difference as large or larger than the one observed in our sample would be found only 5% of the time.