Philosophers make more money, than other humanities majors, but is that because lots of them are male?

Daily Nous reports that philosophers make more money than other humanities majors. See here.

But one might wonder how much of this is due to the gender gap in pay scales in general and to the gender make up of undergraduate philosophy majors. If men make more money than women, and most philosophers are male, then the higher earning of philosophy majors can be explained without thinking there’s something special about the discipline (besides its maleness).

This is just speculation. Anyone have any idea if they controlled for this?

7 thoughts on “Philosophers make more money, than other humanities majors, but is that because lots of them are male?

  1. Also, for socioeconomic background. It could well be that people who major in philosophy have, on average, more financially secure support networks, so that ought to be conditioned on as well. I don’t see any mention of conditioning on anything in the Nous article or the article it cites, actually.

  2. This idea came up here last year (; then, and now, I don’t think it’s plausible that gender is the main driver. Quick crude analysis:

    – the gender pay gap in the US is about 20%
    – the humanities on average are around 50% female, philosophy is about 30% female

    So the humanities average salary (S, say) is an equal mixture of men earning 110% of S and women earning 90% of S. (I’m doing some nasty things to percentages here but it’s valid to first approximation).

    The salary you’d predict for philosophy is then 70% x 110% S, plus 30% x 90% S, or 104% S. The article linked on DN has the philosophy salary at 120% S. So gender is explaining only c.20% of the difference. (That’s broadly in line with what I got last year.)

  3. The post asked the question as to whether the study _controlled for_ gender, though. David Wallace’s point (though good to know) doesn’t settle that question, since gender could well be one of, though not the only, factor that they need to condition on in order to draw any conclusions about the consequences of choosing to major in philosophy. I find that quite plausible, actually.

    I don’t see anything showing that they conditioned on either gender or the strength of financial and social support networks.

  4. It is entirely possible. I know several females that majored and got their masters in Philosophy and they all had issues even getting a job. So that screams that these men want it to be an all boy’s club. We hear daily about various secret societies, people who have secret lives and power. So, it is an interesting query. I mean if in this day and age there are so many conspiracies and theorists on so many subjects, I would suppose anything is possible. It is definitely something to think about. Thanks for sharing.

  5. @sgsterrett: fair enough.

    I seriously hope they haven’t controlled for it: if someone reports a raw number, but that raw number is not a straightforward average but is determined by some complicated re-weighting, then it’s a pretty dubious use of statistics. Control for sufficiently many variables, and you can eliminate any effect you like. (There is no gender gap in salaries, once you control for gender!)

    Having said that, if you like then you can reinterpret my crude model as an argument that doing any such explicit control wouldn’t make a large difference.

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