The Sexual Orientations of First-Year Philosophy Undergrads


What’s the distribution of sexual orientations among first-year undergraduates who are majoring in philosophy? Eric Schwitzgebel (Riverside), Morgan Thompson (Pittsburgh), and Eric Winsberg (South Florida) looked at data from Higher Education Research Institute’s “Freshman Survey” to find out that and other information.

[photograph by Muholi Zanele]

They conclude that “Students intending to major in philosophy are more likely to identify as non-heterosexual than are students in other majors.” Here are the numbers:

Overall, across all majors, 92% identified as straight, 4% as bisexual, 2% as other, and the remaining groups 1% each. Philosophy majors were more likely to report non-heterosexual sexual orientation: 88% straight, 6% bisexual, 3% other, 2% gay, 1% queer, and < 1% lesbian. (p < .001, comparing the proportion straight).

Non-response rates of 10% for philosophy majors and 8% for students over all was “an issue”, they say, but “the proportions, absolute numbers, and effect sizes are large enough to permit some confidence in the conclusion”.

They add, “Unsurprisingly, philosophy isn’t the queerest of all disciplines.” That designation would go to Women’s and Gender Studies, with 42% of the students identifying as non-heterosexual.

They also found that “43% (485/1132) of intended philosophy majors were women (1%, or 7 total, declined to state), compared to 58% of first-year students overall.”

They attempted to determine the proportion of philosophy students who are transgender, but, they say, “given the small number of self-reported transgender students and these resulting interpretative difficulties, we are hesitant to draw conclusions about the proportion of students who are transgender or about whether philosophy students were more likely than other students to be transgender.”

You can read more about their study here.


Related: “The Personality of Philosophy Majors“, “The Political Views of Philosophy Majors“, “Philosophy Majors Are Less Likely To Marry Each Other“, “The Philosophy Major Sees Increase in Numbers and Diversity“, “Proportion of Philosophy Majors Who Are Women Varies Widely Across Schools“.

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