College & Workforce Readiness

Census Considers Ditching Question About College Majors

By Sarah D. Sparks — October 31, 2014 1 min read
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UPDATED, 8:30 a.m.

The U.S. Census Bureau is considering cutting seven questions for individuals from its annual American Community Survey, one of which asks Americans who have a bachelor’s degree about their major.

Like the other questions on the chopping block—like whether the person has been married, divorced, or widowed in the past 12 months—the college major question is not required by law or regulation, and in a recent comprehensive review of the survey was found to have only “programmatic” uses.

Education researchers interested in the pipeline of students to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields probably find questions like this useful, as may high school principals working with local businesses to plan career academies.

Is that enough to include the question in the long form of the Census? Considering that only 43 percent of Americans has any sort of college degree, is there another question that might serve educators and researchers’ needs more?

As an example of how the Census’ field of study data is used, take a gander at how much those education degress will benefit students over a lifetime of earning. (Just don’t look at the comparison between educators and lawyers.)

You can explore what other fields of study offer students with this Census college majors tool.

Those interested (or alarmed) can email Cheryl Chambers at

Chart source: U.S. Census Bureau

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.