Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  Federal Funding for the Humanities
Beyond NEH: Other Federal Support for Humanities Activities
(Updated August 2018)

While NEH is the primary federal funder of humanities activities, the field receives funding from a large number of other federal departments and agencies. This indicator identifies key budget lines that provide support for humanities work, and it describes the trend in funding from fiscal year (FY) 2008 to the president’s request for FY 2019.

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 $2.64 billion to $2.36 billion in inflation-adjusted value from 2008 to 2018 (a decline of 11%). Under the president’s budget request for 2019, the total funding going to humanities activities would be substantially lower, falling to $1.44 billion (a 39% decrease from 2018).
  • Humanities-focused programs in the Department of Education experienced some of the largest funding reductions over the 2008–2018 time period, including elimination of both the Teaching American History Grant Program and the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship Program (the only federal program supporting graduate education in the humanities). There were also deep cuts in budget lines supporting foreign language, area, and international studies. The 2019 budget proposal would eliminate all of the remaining humanities-focused programs at the department.
  • The National Park Service’s history and historic preservation programs experienced an 18% funding increase from 2008 to 2018. The president’s FY 2019 budget calls for a 72% reduction in appropriations, bringing the total well below 2008 levels.
  • From 2008 to 2018, humanities-focused programs in the State Department, most of which support international scholarly and cultural exchange, increased by over $38 million in inflation-adjusted funding, despite a $16.5 million reduction in the Fulbright Program and the elimination of Title VIII funds for East European and Eurasian studies. The budget for 2019 proposes cuts of over $403 million in humanities-focused programs at State, including elimination of the Ambassadors Fund for Cultural Preservation and a funding cut of more than 75% in the other programs.
  • Some federal humanities activities are funded as part of a department’s or agency’s general operations (the National Park Service is a key example), which complicates the process of identifying the precise amount of federal funding going to the field. Programs that fund humanities activities but for which an exact accounting of the amount going to such activity is not feasible constitute the shaded portion of Indicator IV-2. For each such entity the amount shown is the total for the program, not the portion devoted to humanities activities.
  • Most agencies and programs that play a significant role in the humanities, but which have mandates that extend beyond the field, received less funding in 2018 than 10 years earlier. The Smithsonian Institution, however, saw a funding increase of almost 14%. Under the president’s 2019 budget request, all such entities would experience a reduction in funding, with several being zeroed out or (as in the case of the National Endowment for the Arts) receiving only enough to close down operations.
IV-2: Federal Support of Humanities Activities, Fiscal Years 2008–2019 (Adjusted for Inflation)

a. Javits was the only Department of Education program that awarded fellowships to graduate students in the humanities specifically. Javits, but not its budget, was folded into GAANN, which is focused on awarding grants to students in STEM subjects.
b. The Title VIII program was an important factor in the development of Soviet and other East European expertise. Beginning in FY 2013, the program received no funding, but it continues to exist.
c. No appropriation was made 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.
d. The amounts given are for salaries and expenses only.
e. The appropriation for FY 2008 includes funding for the National Postal Museum.
f. Appropriation included in that for the National Museum of American History.

Source: Publicly available agency budget justification documents, omnibus appropriations legislation for FY 2018 (164 Cong. Rec. H2045-902 (March 22, 2018)), 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 “Projected GDP Deflators for Baseline Countries/Regions 2010–2030 (Updated: 12/6/2017)” (produced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service,, accessed 5/9/2018). Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (

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