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The Humanities Indicators Project

Overview, 2009 Prototype (NHA Contributions)

In collaboration with the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (AAAS) and the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) at the University of Chicago, the National Humanities Alliance (NHA) has completed the initial round of data tabulation (relating to several aspects of federal funding) for "The Humanities Indicators Prototype" published in January 2009. As part of the Initiative for Humanities and Culture, the Academy has been working with a consortium of humanities organizations to compile and analyze existing data on the state of the humanities in the United States. Modeled after the Science and Engineering Indicators (published every other year by the National Science Board), the Indicators are organized into five categories: (I) Primary and Secondary Education; (II) Undergraduate and Graduate Education; (III) Humanities Research and Funding; (IV) The Humanities Workforce; and (V) The Humanities in American Life.

According to the Academy, the goal of the Indicators is "to equip researchers and policymakers at universities, foundations, public humanities institutions, and government agencies with better statistical tools for answering basic questions about undergraduate and graduate degrees in the humanities, employment of humanities graduates, levels of program funding, public understanding of the humanities, and other areas of concern in the humanities." The initial set of Indicators responds to the most immediate needs of national humanities organizations and will be expanded over time to provide useful information to a wide range of users. In addition to the data, interpretive essays accompany the model Indicators.

The National Humanities Alliance serves as both an advisor and contributor to the Humanities Indicators Project. Jessica Jones Irons, Executive Director of the NHA, is a member of the Humanities Indicators Leadership Group that has advised the Academy on this project. In addition to the Alliance, the Leadership Group is comprised of senior figures in both the humanities and the social sciences and includes representatives from professional associations, including the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, the College Art Association, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In addition to serving on the Humanities Indicators Leadership Group, the Alliance has provided data describing the amount and allocation of National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) funding. These data serve as the basis for Humanities Indicators IV-1: National Endowment for the Humanities Funding Levels and IV-2: Distribution of NEH Program Funding among Activity Types.

The Alliance will continue to support future versions of the Humanities Indicators and encourages direct and expanded reporting of these data by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Federal Funding Data Compiled by NHA

IV-1: National Endowment for the Humanities Funding Levels Using appropriations data, confirmed by the NEH Office of Strategic Planning, the Alliance has provided the following data to the Indicators project. To download the tables in pdf form, click the links below.

TABLES 1-2: Appropriations History, FY 1966-2007 - Program v. Administration Funds
The Alliance has provided data comparing program funding and administration costs over the course of the agency's history in both nominal and inflation-adjusted dollars. Money allocated to program funding supports grants in six NEH divisions: Education, Research, Preservation, Public Programs, Challenge Grants, and the Federal-State Partnership. The Indicators note that while the vast majority of NEH funding is directed toward agency programs, due to the shrinking allocation for the agency in general, the administrative share of the budget has more than doubled from 1979 to 2007, increasing from 7% to 17% of the total agency appropriation.

TABLES 3-4: Appropriations History, FY 1987-2007 - Discretionary v. Non-Discretionary Funds
Program dollars are allocated by NEH through two channels: 1) non-discretionary funds, or population-based formula grants to state humanities councils under the Federal/State Partnership, and 2) discretionary funds, or awards made via national grant competitions. The Alliance has provided a break-out of discretionary and non-discretionary funds over the span of the last twenty years in both nominal and inflation-adjusted dollars. The Indicators find that while the amount of money distributed by formula has remained relatively constant since 1987, the substantial reduction in the agency's budget in 1996 reduced discretionary spending from approximately $163 million to just under $85.6 million. Funding has stayed around this level over the subsequent eleven years.

TABLE 5: President's Budget Request History, FY 1966-2007
The Alliance has provided data comparing the President's Budget Requests and the final appropriations for each fiscal year in inflation-adjusted dollars. From 1968 to 1979, NEH appropriations grew from approximately $27 million to over $400 million. Funding then dropped drastically, and after three years of marked reductions, appropriations had decreased by 32%. Funding continued to decline over the next fifteen years until 1996 when total appropriations to the agency were further cut from $228 million to $141 million. NEH funding has remained near that level through fiscal year 2007.

TABLE 6: Summary of Grants and Awards by State, FY 1997-2007
The Alliance has also provided the amount of funding received by each state and jurisdiction from competitive and state council grants in fiscal years 1997-2006. The table below includes the obligated dollar amounts as well as the number of competitive grants awarded to each state.

IV-2: Distribution of NEH Program Funding among Activity Types

Using the activity classifications employed by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alliance has provided the Indicators project with a break-out of grants awarded by division and program for fiscal year 2006.

National Endowment for the Humanities, Grants by Activity Type, FY 2006
The Indicators find that the greatest percentage of program funds supported the Preservation and Access Division, with about 20% of program funds going to competitive grants in this division. The Research Division distributed about 13% of program money with the bulk of its funds going to fellowships and stipends to individuals. The Education Division allocated about 12% of the agency's program funds to K-12, undergraduate, and general education. The Public Programs division distributed about 13% of NEH program funds to support media, libraries, archives, museums, and historical sites. About 9% of discretionary money went to Challenge Grants. Grant programs directed to state humanities councils made up another 32% of funds.

o    National Endowment for the Humanities, Grants by Activity Type

National Endowment for the Humanities, Grant Activities Classification
In addition to providing the activity break-out of FY 2006 NEH grants, the Alliance has prepared a brief discussion of the agency's grant divisions and programs. The main categories of the classification mirror the current organizational and programmatic structure followed by NEH. Grant descriptions are based on multiple NEH Annual Reports and competition guidelines posted on the NEH website during the fall of 2007. These classifications describe activities supported by NEH discretionary grants, as well as non-discretionary grants. To allow easier comparison to additional years, descriptions for recent grant competitions for which no grants were awarded in FY 2006 are also provided.

  • National Endowment for the Humanities, Grant Activities Classification

If you have any questions regarding the Alliance's involvement in the Humanities Indicators, please contact Jessica Jones Irons at 202.296.4994, ext. 149 or