The Effect of Work Experience on the Relative Earnings of Humanities Graduates: Comparing the Earnings Gap for Younger Workers with That for Older Workers, 2015Back to table of contents
The gap in earnings between humanities majors and several of the higher-earning majors is less pronounced for older workers. The figure above indicates how the gap for workers ages 24 to 34 compares with that found among workers ages 35 to 54. For example, the earnings gap between humanities and business majors is two percentage points smaller for older workers with terminal bachelor’s degrees than younger workers with the same level of education. The gap is almost six-and-a-half percentage points narrower among advanced degree holders. The earnings differential between the humanities and the natural science fields, however, is larger among older workers, particularly for advanced degree holders.1
- 1U.S. Census Bureau, 2015 American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample. The earnings gap is calculated as the difference between the median earnings of humanities majors and the median earnings of majors of the comparison field, expressed as a share of the comparison field’s median earnings. The American Community Survey, which yields the data on which this figure is based, does not ask respondents about the amount of their work experience. Thus the Humanities Indicators uses age to distinguish between workers who are in the first years of their career and those who are more experienced. Age and work experience are not perfectly correlated, but age does provide an approximate measure of work experience that allows the Humanities Indicators to examine the effect of this experience on unemployment and earnings of humanities majors.