by PhDinHistory | 4/16/2008 01:16:00 AM
Cross-posted at PhDinHistory:

There are now only about half a dozen other disciplines in the academy that pay their faculty less then what history faculty are paid. The pay gap for history faculty has been widening since at least the late 1990s. Back then tenured history faculty earned only 2 to 3 percent less than the average tenured faculty in all other disciplines. As of this school year, tenured history faculty earn about 9 to 10 percent less then the average for all tenured faculty in the academy. This means that full professors of history are earning, on average, around $7,000 less per year than the average for full professors in all other disciplines. Assistant professors of history earn 12 percent less than their colleagues in other disciplines. Likewise, the pay disparity for history instructors is about 8 percent.

For more details, see the below chart:

The latest data for faculty salaries can be found here. You can read about my methodology for these calculations and comparisons here. Hat tip.

I have written before about this trend in history faculty salaries. Robert B. Townsend is about the only other person I know who has followed this issue. Why does it seem like nobody else in our profession is talking about this unmistakable downward trend in salaries? Do we really believe that we are powerless to change this situation? Why haven't the major historical associations appointed committees to study this issue? What I fear most is that some of us have started believing that history is somehow less valuable than other disciplines in the academy.



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Anonymous Lori Stokes on 4/16/2008 7:28 AM:

This is a timely article. I'm afraid that the problem may begin in K-12. The state NCLB tests that start in 3rd grade and are required for high school graduation rarely include history as a topic. English, Math, Science and Technology are the focus, and History is grudgingly included only at the end of the cycle.

American history was included in the first years of testing, then quickly dropped when test scores in general were very low. "Why waste time on history," people asked, "when our kids can't read or do math?" And out history went.

If history is not a priority in our K-12 education, how many history majors will we get in college? How important will the subject seem to the American public at large? How much outrage will there be at lower salaries for history professors?

I'm afraid history is now considered to be an arcane hobby with no practical application. This is the same problem afflicting philosophy, music, and other non-commercial fields.

The good news is that as our field moves out of traditional venues, such as book and journal publication, and into new media, like the HBO Adams movie and like this very blog, more people will come across American history on their own and get hooked on it. Historians on the web can do a great deal to increase general awareness of and interest in history.

If we can also get the big professional orgs (AHA, etc.) to break out of the traditional conference-journal-book mode, that would be a big help.


Anonymous Anonymous on 4/16/2008 3:59 PM:

Maybe this information will influence
rightwingers to pursue other fields and leave history to those who cherish the pursuit, knowledge, and spreading of the truth about the past.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/16/2008 4:16 PM:

Anonymous, are you saying that right-wingers don't value those things? I'd beg to differ. I don't think anyone who chooses to be a historian doesn't do so with full knowledge of the low pay and high potential for spreading knowledge and truth.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/16/2008 6:43 PM:

Sterling, I notice that your numbers have factored out the health sciences. Why not factor out all sciences? I'm wondering whether this is a history problem or a humanities problem.


Blogger PhDinHistory on 4/17/2008 12:35 AM:

The NSOPF data left out the health sciences, so I did the same to keep the data consistent.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/17/2008 1:27 AM:

But my question still stands: do you think this is a history problem, or a humanities problem?


Blogger PhDinHistory on 4/17/2008 11:51 AM:

Jeremy: I am not avoiding your question. I just misunderstood what you were asking for. This is definitely a humanities problem. And it is a history problem inasmuch as history has aligned itself with the humanities in the last few decades. Here is a blog post I wrote that analyzed this problem in some depth.


Blogger Jeremy Young on 4/17/2008 2:06 PM:

I didn't think you were avoiding my question -- just wanted to be clear. The article you link is an interesting one. It seems to me there are two paths the historical field could pursue here. One is what you lay out in that post: shifting focus from the humanities to the social sciences in order to obtain the resources that shift would provide. The other is to work actively within the humanities community to advocate for more militant/directed representation in university-wide funding discussions -- that is, to attempt to "raise all boats" with the tide of the humanities. There are benifits and costs to both options. The chief cost I see with your plan is that not all of us view ourselves as quantitative scholars or would feel comfortable being so. On the other hand, we do also have a responsibility to make our field more attractive to new scholars, and raising salaries quickly is one way to do that.


Blogger PhDinHistory on 4/19/2008 9:59 AM:

Jeremy: I agree with you that not every historian can work with numbers or become a social scientist. But I suspect the social sciences are paid more than the humanities because, in recent years, policy makers have increasingly considered the former more relevant. As for your second option, I wonder why we don't see more discussion of collective bargaining by history faculty. The data shows that history faculty at public institutions with collective bargaining earn, on average, about 10 percent more than history faculty at public institutions without collective bargaining. This strategy would potentially erase the decline that has taken place in history faculty salaries over the last decade or two.