Humanities Indicators
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Funding & Research  >  Federal Funding for the Humanities
 
National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Funding Levels
(Updated January 2017)

Established by the federal government in 1965, the NEH currently has the explicit goal of providing 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 thus its financial condition serves as an important indicator of federal support for the field.

Findings and Trends

  • The period from the late 1960s to 1979 was one of substantial, virtually uninterrupted growth in NEH funding, with appropriations for the agency increasing from approximately $34 million to just under $403 million in inflation-adjusted value (Indicator IV-1a). Funding, however, quickly dropped from this historic high, and after four years of marked reductions by 1983 appropriations were down 33%. (For the unadjusted request and appropriations values, click here.)
  • 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. At that time, total new appropriations were cut 37%, from $255 million to $160 million in inflation adjusted dollars. Funding remained in the vicinity of this reduced level through 2014. In recent years, the high watermark for funding was 2010, when the agency received an appropriation of $185 million. But the effects of inflation and funding cuts brought the resources made available to the agency by Congress down to $144 million (a 22% decrease) in 2013, before a modest increase to almost $148 million in 2016.
  • The President’s budget request for NEH has tended to exceed the eventual appropriation received by the agency. The 1980s, however, were a notable exception to this general rule, particularly in the early years of the decade when the Reagan administration’s requests were well below the amounts of funding Congress ultimately directed to the NEH.
  • Although the absolute amounts of agency funding directed toward administrative purposes have been stable (in constant 2016 dollars) since the late 1970s, shrinking program budgets mean that from 1979 (the peak year of NEH funding) to 2014, the administrative share of the NEH budget increased from 7% to almost 19% of the total agency appropriation (Indicator IV-1b). In FY 2015, the share of the NEH budget allocated to administration fell slightly (from 18.8% to 18.5%), and under the proposed budget for FY 2016, the share would shrink further (to 18.4%).
  • The amount of NEH money distributed in Federal/State Partnership funding to the state humanities councils has remained relatively constant since 1987 (Indicator IV-1c).[1] The substantial 1996 reduction in the agency’s budget primarily impacted discretionary funds, which dropped from approximately $182 million in 1995 to $96.5 million in 1996. Discretionary funding remained near this lower level, albeit growing slightly, for several years. The NEH’s discretionary funding started to decline again in 2011, falling to $76.9 million in 2013, its lowest level since the late 1980s.
  • The first column of Indicator IV-1d lists the total amount of funding directed by the NEH in 2014 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. The second column of the figure 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 Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Ohio, and Texas to a high of $4.93 for the District of Columbia.
  • The uncommonly large size of the District’s per capita amount is due, in part, to the fact that it includes 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 allocations were Vermont ($2.79), Alaska, Delaware, Massachusetts, Montana, North and South Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming (all between one and two dollars). National per capita funding distributed for 2014 was 36 cents.
IV-1a: National Endowment for the Humanities Budget Request versus Final Appropriation, Fiscal Years 1966–2016 (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 of 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. The amount for 2016 was obtained from the agency's Appropriations Request For Fiscal Year 2017. 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.
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IV-1b: National Endowment for the Humanities Funding, by Purpose, Fiscal Years 1966–2016 (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 of 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. The amount of the agency’s request for 2016 was obtained from budget documents posted on the agency’s website. 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” (http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/files/fomcprojtabl20150318.pdf, accessed 10/12/2015).
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IV-1c: National Endowment for the Humanities Program Funding, by Type, Fiscal Years 1987–2016 (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 of 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. The amount of the agency’s request for 2016 was obtained from budget documents posted on the agency’s website. 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” (http://www.federalreserve.gov/monetarypolicy/files/fomcprojtabl20150318.pdf, accessed 10/12/2015).
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IV-1d: National Endowment for the Humanities Funding Distributed to States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Fiscal Year 2014 (Current Dollars)

* Monies include those for new grants, supplemental grants, program contracts, and other program-related purposes. Included are awards that were made by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) using funds appropriated by Congress; transferred to NEH 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, 2014 (NST-EST2014-01)."

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Endnotes

[1] For an explanation of the formula by which NEH distributes funding to the state councils see the “About the Data” window associated with Indicator IV-3a, State Humanities Council Revenues, Total and Per Capita, Fiscal Years 1994–2010 (Adjusted for Inflation).