Trends in graduate student funding in anthropology

anthro grad funding

This may be the last of my demographics posts for a bit, as I have to leave town for this coming week. But I think this may be one of the most important for anthropologists to examine — grad students in particular. Turns out there are NSF statistics on evolving financial support over time. Here I present the general picture for our field between 1972 and 2006 — the last 35 years.

Here are the major conclusions I’d draw:

  • Unfunded (euphemistically “self-supported”) people comprise an enormously large fraction of the graduate student body. It used to be above half (56.6% in 1977). Now it’s down to about a third (35%), but that, of course, still means that one person in three has no financial support from their institution.
  • The fraction of people with fellowships used to be very low, falling as low as 15.6% (in 1982), and is still a relatively scanty 24.7% of all graduate students. Barely 1 in 4 gets fellowship support, in other words.
  • The fraction of grad students who support themselves by teaching has been rising. In 1977, it used to be as little as 17.3%; it has risen to 30.8%, the largest single form of institutional funding.
  • Research assistants have formed a fairly small though very slowly growing segment, currently 9.6%, which is fairly close to their average share of 8.8% over the last 35 years.
  • Overall, more people are getting some sort of funding than they used to, mostly through slow growth in teaching and fellowship support. 65.1% of all students currently get some kind of support.

It’s good to see that things are improving. But one would like to think that our field overall could manage more financial support for the more than 1 in 3 grad students who are getting nothing.

When I get a chance to come back to this, I may look at federal funding across the social sciences, or perhaps compare funding trends across disciplines….