Updates for Humanities Indicators

Over the past few months, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has been active inAmerican_Academy_of_Arts_and_Sciences_logo-prv its support for the humanities, with new reports on the employment status and earnings of humanities majors, the financial health of not-for-profit humanities organizations, metrics on the qualifications of school teachers, international comparisons of levels of adult literacy, and trends in public reading rates.

Key findings:

  • In 2013, the median annual earnings for humanities majors were $50,000 for those who held only a bachelor’s degree and $71,000 for those with an advanced degree (in any field). Both amounts were $7,000 below the median for graduates from all fields with similar degree attainment (but still well above the median of $42,000 for all U.S. workers).
  • The salary differential between humanities majors and graduates from most other fields shrinks with time in the workforce.
  • Humanities majors had somewhat higher rates of unemployment than graduates from all fields. The gap in unemployment narrows with time in the workforce and an advanced degree.
  • A comparatively large share of humanities graduates go into education-related occupations—especially among those with terminal bachelor’s degrees, where humanities majors are second only to education graduates.
  •  Among the 42% of undergraduate humanities majors who had gone on to earn an advanced degree, workers were more evenly distributed across occupational categories than majors in most of the other fields.
  • Revenues of humanities not-for profits have largely recovered from recession, but not all organizations survived.
  •  Less than 70% of students in each of several types of high school humanities classes were taught by a teacher with both a college major in the subject and state certification to teach it.
  •  While a growing number of recent humanities PhDs report their research was “interdisciplinary,” most confined their work within the humanities.
  •  The median time to PhD for students who paid for their education with personal savings or employer support was two years longer than the median for those who relied on scholarships, grants, and assistantships.
  •  An international study finds that literacy and occupational skill levels are highly correlated.

New in the Academy Data Forum:                                                                       

  • Christine Henseler (Union College) argues for a more expansive view of the value of the humanities.John Dichtl (American Association for State and Local History) and
  • Carole Rosenstein (George Mason University) discuss gaps in what we know about humanities nonprofits.
  • Barbara Cambridge National Council for Teachers of English) and Nancy McTygue (California History-Social Science Project) fill in gaps between the numbers on teacher on teacher credentials and classroom experience.
  • Jamie Carroll and Chandra Muller (University of Texas at Austin) assess what recent changed in the intended majors of college-bound seniors might portend for the humanities.


  •  The Lincoln Project releases a new publication to examine state funding of higher education and describes challenges that state governments face. (And in case you missed it, the first Lincoln Project publication was Public Research Universities: Why They Matter.
  •  50 years of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)In response to a bipartisan Congressional request, the Academy is initiating the first national study on foreign language learning in more than 30 years.
  •  We are pleased to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Humanities—a vital sponsor for our work. The co-chair of the Academy’s Commission on the Humanities, Richard H. Brodhead (Duke Univ.), delivered the keynote address “On the Fate and Fortunes of Public Goods” at a symposium commemorating the event.