Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  Federal Funding for the Humanities
 
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Funding Levels
(Updated August 2018)

Established by the federal government in 1965, the NEH provides support for humanities activities through grants for education, preservation, research, and public programs. While the federal government contributes to the humanities through many other federal agencies and departments, the NEH is the largest source of federal funding for humanities activities—and the only agency whose explicit mission is to nurture and promote the field. Its financial condition is thus an important indicator of federal support for the humanities.

Findings and Trends

  • In fiscal year (FY) 2018, the NEH received an appropriation of $152.8 million (in current dollars; as compared to $42.3 million requested by the Trump administration). Adjusting for inflation, this was the largest appropriation for the agency since 2014, though it was well below its FY 1973–1995 appropriation levels (Indicator IV-1a; see the supporting table for the unadjusted request and appropriations amounts).
  • The period from the late 1960s to 1979 was one of substantial, virtually uninterrupted growth in NEH funding, with appropriations increasing from approximately $36 million to just under $425.4 million in inflation-adjusted value. Funding dropped substantially from this historic high the following year, however, and after several more years of marked reductions, appropriations were down 33% by 1983.
  • Funding for the NEH plateaued from the early 1980s until 1996, when a major contraction—similar to that experienced by the agency in the early 1980s—occurred. The agency’s appropriation was cut 37%, from $268 million to $168 million in inflation-adjusted dollars. Funding remained in the vicinity of this reduced level through 2018. In recent years, the high watermark for funding was 2010, when the agency received an appropriation of $194 million. But the effects of inflation and funding cuts brought the resources made available to the agency by Congress below $152 million (an almost 22% decrease) by 2013. Subsequent years, up through 2018, saw modest deviation from this reduced level.
  • Throughout NEH’s history, the president’s budget request for the agency has tended to exceed the eventual appropriation received by the agency, with notable exceptions occurring during the 1980s (particularly in the early years of the Reagan administration), and again in 2018, when the appropriation from Congress was over three-and-a-half times the size of the administration’s request, which was intended to cover the costs associated with a planned shutdown of the agency. The 2019 budget proposal makes the same request (in current dollars; due to the effect of inflation, the request will amount to somewhat less in purchasing power).
  • Although the absolute amounts of agency funding directed toward administrative purposes have been stable (adjusting for inflation) since the late 1970s, shrinking program budgets mean that from 1979 (the peak year of NEH funding) to 2018, the administrative share of the NEH budget increased from 7% to 18% of the total agency appropriation (Indicator IV-1b).
  • As in the case of NEH funding dedicated to administrative purposes, the amount of funding directed by the agency to the state humanities councils—according to a congressionally mandated formula—has remained relatively stable over the years, ranging from a low of $36.6 million in 2007 to a high of $47.3 million in 2011 (in inflation-adjusted value), but the proportion of all NEH money distributed to these councils has trended substantially upward (Indicator IV-1c).[1] The councils’ share of agency funding increased from 17% in 1987 to 38% in 2018. The amount of discretionary funding available to the agency in FY 2018, $77.5 million is near the lowest level recorded over the time period (when inflation is taken into account).
  • The first column of Indicator IV-1d lists the total amount of funding directed by the NEH in FY 2017 to each of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Each total represents the monies distributed by formula to the state’s humanities council plus the discretionary funding awards made to entities and individuals in that state.[2] The second column of the table adjusts for population size, indicating the per capita funding level for each state. These per capita amounts ranged from less than 20 cents for the states of Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, and Texas to a high of $4.46 for the District of Columbia.
  • The uncommonly large size of the District’s per capita amount was due, in part, to the fact that it included not only grants but also $1.1 million in program-related contracts awarded by the agency. Apart from this exceptional case, the states receiving the largest per capita allocations were Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming (all between one and two dollars). Looking across all the jurisdictions examined here, the per capita funding level for FY 2017 was 39 cents (37 cents when the District of Columbia is excluded).
IV-1a: National Endowment for the Humanities Budget Request versus Final Appropriation, Fiscal Years 1966–2019 (Adjusted for Inflation)
Source: Data for years 1966 through 2007 were compiled by the National Humanities Alliance, at the request of the Humanities Indicators, from documentation supplied by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Office of Strategic Planning. Data for 2008 to 2015 were provided directly to the Humanities Indicators by NEH’s Office of Planning and Budget. Data for subsequent years were obtained from the annual budget requests to Congress, available at https://www.neh.gov/about/legal/reports. 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, https://www.ers.usda.gov/webdocs/DataFiles/51832/ProjectedGDPDeflatorValues.xls?v=43075, accessed 5/9/2018). Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/).
About this DataRelated Indicators
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IV-1b: National Endowment for the Humanities Funding, by Purpose, Fiscal Years 1966–2018 (Adjusted for Inflation)
Source: Data for years 1966 through 2007 were compiled by the National Humanities Alliance, at the request of the Humanities Indicators, from documentation supplied by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Office of Strategic Planning. Data for 2008 to 2018 were provided directly to the Humanities Indicators by NEH’s Office of Planning and Budget. 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. Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/).
About this DataRelated Indicators
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IV-1c: National Endowment for the Humanities Program Funding, by Type, Fiscal Years 1987–2018 (Adjusted for Inflation)
Source: Data for years 1987 through 2007 were compiled by the National Humanities Alliance, at the request of the Humanities Indicators, from documentation supplied by the National Endowment for the Humanities’ (NEH) Office of Strategic Planning. Data for 2008 to 2018 were provided directly to the Humanities Indicators by NEH’s Office of Planning and Budget. 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. Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/).
About this DataRelated Indicators
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IV-1d: National Endowment for the Humanities Funding Distributed to States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Fiscal Year 2017

* Monies include those for new grants, supplemental grants, program contracts, and other program-related purposes. Included are awards that were made by the agency using funds appropriated by Congress, transferred by other federal agencies, and contributed by nonfederal entities.
** The amount for the District of Columbia includes, in addition to grants, funding for all program contracts awarded by the agency ($1.1 million).

Source: National Endowment for the Humanities, Office of Planning and Budget (data provided to the Humanities Indicators upon request). The population data used to calculate per capita amounts were obtained from U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for the United States, Regions, States, and Puerto Rico: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017 (NST-EST2017-01)” (accessed 5/18/2018). Data presented by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Humanities Indicators (http://www.humanitiesindicators.org/).

Related Indicators
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Endnotes

[1] The NEH provides each of the state humanities councils with an annual supporting grant through its Federal/State Partnership program, created in 1987. The funding formula directs $200,000 to every council, with the remainder of the appropriated monies being distributed in the following manner:
  • 44% is allocated equally among councils that serve a population of 200,000 or more;
  • 22% is allocated to all councils according to population; and
  • 34% is allocated to councils according to the wishes of the NEH chairperson.
[2] The total does not equal the programmatic funding total given in Indicator IV-1b because the amount directed to the District of Columbia includes, in addition to grants, funding for all program contracts awarded by the agency. Such monies are considered part of the agency’s administrative budget.