English Majors and Journalists: You Are Not The 1%, And You Pretty Much Never Will Be

New York City is one of the world’s gravitational centers for the media and publishing industries; this, of course, results in an inordinate concentration of English majors. News for up-and-coming English majors that already-graduated English majors are likely well-acquainted with: You’re not gonna make any money.

Or at least any capital-m Money.

The New York Times Economix blog posted the results of combing through the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. The survey compiled individual income data against each respective polled person’s income. And guess who was at the bottom of the 25 most popular majors?

Well, that was actually “Miscellaneous Biology” majors, who are probably all P.E. teachers (no offense to our nation’s great physical education specialists). But right above them:

English majors. Specifically, “English Language and Literature.”

They were the second most popular majors: 1,938,988 of the respondents, exactly (the most popular major polled was actually Accounting, responded for to the tune of 2,296,601 undergrads).

Only 3.8% of the English majors were One Percenters; interestingly enough, only 3.8% of the One Percenters polled were English majors. Compare that to a degree like International Relations: 6.7% of those polled were One Percenters, but as only 146,781 respondents polled as International Relations majors, they accounted for only 0.5% of the One Percenters. But the Times did us the favor of noting the odds by profession of getting rich:

Newspaper writers and editors? One in 62.

Sounds about right, if actually quite generous. Might be time to decamp for the Golden State, as one in nine Hollywood screenwriters are one percenters, and one in fourteen television or radio writers are richer than everyone else, too. Next time the WGA goes on strike, you might want to keep in mind how healthy your reserve of empathy is.

The degree most likely to make you Rich People: Health and Medical Preparatory Programs, but only 142,345 polled graduated with Pre-Med degrees. They make up only 0.9% of Rich People Polled, which means it’s among the least likely for you to choose.

So where’s the money really at, then? Ask an economist. Literally. Economics majors were the sixth most popular among respondents, as they accounted for 5.4% of all the One Percenters polled. 8.2% of them were in the top 1% of earners, which means if you major in Economics and you’re the betting type, you basically have a 8:100 chance of becoming a Rich Economist.

Wonder what the people who write the New York Times Economix blog majored in (and/or how bitter they are that they abandoned their original calling).

What the Top 1% of Earners Majored In [NYT Economix]

fkamer@observer.com | @weareyourfek