Philosophers are indebted to Kathleen Wallace, Chair of the Department at Hofstra University, for this systematic analysis of trends in philosophy majors, responding to the misleading claims in a CHE article we noted previously. An excerpt from her analysis:
So, what is the basis for McIntyre's claim that philosophy and religion majors have dropped 20% from 1970 through 2009, "adjusted for enrollment." The assertion is based on the following statistic: in 1970-71, philosophy and religious studies majors comprised .97% of degrees conferred, in 2008-09 .78% of degrees conferred. This might be worrisome if it represented a downward trend. But, it doesn't. In fact, the data shows just the opposite. The trend in both the absolute number of philosophy and religious studies majorsand in philosophy and religious studies majors as a percentage of degrees conferred is upward from 1985-86 to 2008-09. (See graphs.)
This might also be worrisome if the number of degrees conferred remained the same. But it hasn't; it has increased and so has the number of philosophy and religious studies majors. As has been pointed out the number of philosophy majors increased 153% from 1970-71 to 2008-09. McIntyre's alleged "decline" derives from the fact that the increase in philosophy and religious studies is less than the increase in the total number of degrees conferred -- 191% -- over the same period. But now consider another data point, using McIntyre's criterion of major as a percentage of degrees conferred: 1985-86 showed a widespread drop in many humanities and social sciences majors compared to 1970-71. So, in 1985-86 philosophy and religious studies majors fell to 6,396 and .65% of total degrees conferred. However, from 1985-86 to 2008-09 philosophy and religious studies majors nearly doubled, increasing by 194%, while the total number of degrees conferred increased 162% over the same period. Therefore, compared to 1985=86, philosophy and religious studies majors as a percentage of degrees conferred increased by 20%.