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What Students Study

In some respects, what is remarkable about trends in Harvard undergraduates' academic concentrations is how little has changed in the last 25 years. In the class of 1986, there were 39 anthropology concentrators; in the class of 2011, 38. There were 31 chemistry concentrators in 1986, and 34 in 2011. The number of classics concentrators dropped from 25 in 1986 to 17 in 2011, but the 1986 class stood out among the surrounding years as especially large. Eight students graduated with degrees in music in 1986, and seven in 2011. In both 1986 and 2011, the College awarded 14 degrees in the comparative study of religion, and 26 degrees in visual and environmental studies. Even computer science has stayed relatively steady in size: 30 concentrators in 1986, and 36 in 2011.

But there have been some changes. The largest concentrations, economics and government, are larger than they were in 1986 (208 in 2011 vs. 192 in 1986 for economics; 181 in 2011 vs. 142 in 1986 for government), but both swelled to a maximum a few years ago (290 economics concentrators graduated in 2010, and 221 government concentrators in 2008) and have shrunken since.

The interactive chart above shows trends in the student body as a whole. The number of students choosing science fields is actually not at an all-time high (the high point for the last quarter-century was 1996). The humanities' high point for the last 25 years was 1992, with 492 humanities concentrators; since hitting a low of 292 in 2008, numbers have crept up again.

Explore the trends yourself in the interactive chart above: with your mouse, hover over any of the jagged lines to see figures for each year. Click on the images at upper right to see the breakdown of individual concentrations within each area.

Related article: how the Harvard student experience has changed in the last 25 years