Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  Federal Funding for the Humanities
Beyond NEH: Other Federal Support for Humanities Activities
(Updated October 2015)

While the National Endowment for the Humanities is the primary federal funder of humanities activities (as indicated in the table below for reference), the field receives funding from a large number of federal departments and agencies. This indicator identifies key budget lines that offer support to humanities work, and describes the trend in funding from fiscal year (FY) 2008 to the President’s request for FY 2016.

Findings and Trends

  • Among programs that focus exclusively on humanities activities (the unshaded programs in Indicator IV-2), federal support decreased from a total of $1.3 billion to $1.2 billion in inflation-adjusted value from 2008 to 2015. Under the president’s budget request for 2016, the total funding level would be somewhat higher than that for 2015 but still below the 2008 level.
  • Programs in the Department of Education experienced some of the largest funding reductions over the 2008–2015 time period, including elimination of both the Teaching American History Program and the Javits Fellowship Program (the only federal program supporting graduate education in the humanities), as well as deep cuts in budget lines supporting foreign language, area, and other international studies. The 2016 budget would provide small increases to the humanities-focused programs that remain (those in International Education Foreign Language Studies)
  • History and historic preservation programs supported under the National Park Service decreased by 19% from 2008 to 2015. The president’s FY 2016 budget calls for an increase that would bring funding 4% above the 2008 level.
  • In the 2013 sequester, the State Department suspended Title VIII funds for Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies, and those funds have not been restored.
  • Some humanities activities are funded as part of a department’s or agency’s general operations—such as large portions of the National Park Service and the Institute of Museum Library Services budgets—which greatly complicates the process of identifying the specific dollar amount going to the field. These programs are represented as the shaded portion of Indicator IV-2. The amounts shown are the totals for general operations rather than the portion devoted to humanities activities.
  • The trends in funding levels for departments and programs that play a significant role in the humanities, but that have mandates that extend beyond the field generally, have been mixed. The Library of Congress (including the humanities-focused Kluge Center) experienced a 4% decrease in funding from 2008 to 2015, while the Smithsonian Institution saw a 9% increase. Under the president’s 2016 budget request, funding for the Library of Congress would rise 1% above 2008 levels, while the budget for the Smithsonian would be 17% percent higher.
IV-2: Federal Support of Humanities Activities, Fiscal Years 2008–2016 (Adjusted for Inflation)

a. The Javits program was the only Department of Education fellowship that awarded fellowships to graduate students in the humanities specifically. The Javits program, but not its budget, was folded into the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN). The GAANN is focused on awarding grants to students in STEM subjects.
b. In 2008, this program was administered under Special Academic Exchanges. In 2015 the program was moved under Global Academic Exchanges.
c. The Title VIII program has been an important factor in the development of Soviet and other East European expertise. Beginning in FY 2013, the program received no funding but continues to exist.
d. There was no appropriation specifically for this purpose in FY 2008, but the amount indicated was spent out of the agency's administrative budget on "library policy, research, and statistics" activities.
e. The amounts given are for salaries and expenses only. The Institution's appropriation in each year included monies for the revitalization of facilities at several of the museums listed.
f. The appropriation for FY 2008 includes funding for the National Postal Museum.
g Appropriation included in that for the National Museum of American History.

Source: Publicly available agency budget justification documents and, in a small number of cases, agency staff. Funding amounts were adjusted for inflation using the Gross Domestic Product Implicit Price Deflators produced by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the “Economic Projections of Federal Reserve Board Members and Federal Reserve Bank Presidents, March 2015” (, accessed 10/12/2015).

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