The cliche about majoring in humanities is that it's a lovely way to spend four years of college and poor way to land a lucrative job. To some extent, that cliche may be true. On the whole, humanities grads earn less than students who study disciplines like business or engineering. So sayeth the statistics.
But the Association of American Colleges and Universities would like you to know that getting a degree in English or History, while perhaps not the most financially rewarding choice, doesn't require an oath of poverty either. Over a lifetime, they note, typical humanities and social science majors earn similarly to graduates who study practical, pre-professional fields such as education or nursing.
If you subtract out workers with graduate degrees, humanities and social science students fare a bit worse, but not by much.
I'm sympathetic to this effort. It sort of misleadingly lumps humanities and social science grads together, but in general, the media tends to overemphasize the differences between college majors when it comes to career outcomes. That message needs more corrective.
That said, I want to address an underlying problem with this whole debate. While it's important for college students to understand which majors are most marketable, this creeping notion that college majors should be valued mostly based on what the median or average graduate earns is very, very wrongheaded.