Indicator III-1 displays separate estimates for several broad categories of humanities-related employment. This note supplies details regarding 1) the key data sources on which the indicator is based and 2) how the Humanities Indicators (HI) arrived at its estimates of various types of employment. Unless otherwise noted, the estimates provided here include full- and part-time employment and also self-employment.

Data Sources

This indicator relies, in part, on employment data collected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program. According to the OES, employment is the number of workers who can be classified as full- and part-time employees, including workers on paid vacations or other types of leave; workers on unpaid short-term absences; salaried officers, executives, and staff members of incorporated firms; employees temporarily assigned to other units; and noncontract employees for whom the reporting unit is their permanent duty station regardless of whether that unit prepares their paychecks.

The OES does not survey individual workers. Rather, it surveys “establishments”—that is, firms and businesses—concerning the jobs their employees perform. Employment figures should therefore be understood as job counts. Thus, employment as the BLS uses the term is not synonymous with workforce—the former will tend to be greater because some workers may be employed by more than one establishment. This distinction between jobs and workers is particularly important with regard to postsecondary faculty employment estimates because a substantial percentage of those teaching in postsecondary educational institutions are part-time employees (see “Traditional versus Nontraditional Humanities Faculty”) and either 1) work another full- or part-time nonacademic job or 2) teach classes at more than one college/university.

The OES survey includes all full- and part-time wage and salary workers in nonfarm industries. Partners in unincorporated firms, household workers, and unpaid family workers are excluded. Because it is an establishment survey, OES also does not capture self-employment (U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Appendix B: Survey Method and Reliability Statement for May 2003 Occupational Employment Statistics Survey,” in Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2003 (Washington, DC: Department of Labor, 2004), 227, Two of the other data sources on which this indicator is based do include the self-employed in their estimates. The first of these, the Occupational Outlook Handbook, also produced by BLS, combines the OES and data from the Current Population Survey to supply estimates that include self-employment. Another data source on which the HI relied in preparing this indicator, the American Community Survey, also captures the self-employed, because it surveys individuals rather than establishments. Self-employment is important to include in estimates of humanities employment because for certain humanities occupations self-employment represents a substantial share of total employment; for example, approximately 71% of employment in the occupation of “writers and authors (nontechnical)” is self-employment.

Users will note that certain employment estimates are given as round figures (e.g., 6,300 archivists) and others are more exact (e.g., 726,641 primary and secondary teachers). These differences are attributable both to the source of the data (e.g., the Occupational Outlook Handbook provides round estimates, while analysis of ACS yields more detailed estimates) and the means by which the estimates were calculated (e.g., in certain cases adjustments had to be made to estimate the share of a larger employment sector, like museums, that is humanities-related). See below for additional details about the manner in which the HI arrived at estimates of various types of humanities employment.

Calculation of Estimates

Humanities Research and Teaching

Precollegiate Teaching: This figure is a conservative estimate because it does not take into account the many “general education” teachers at the primary level (32% of the precollegiate teaching corps) who spend a portion of their time teaching reading, language arts, and history.

The HI treats kindergarten teachers as humanities teachers because the bulk of their time is spent laying the foundation for the development of children’s written and oral language skills.

The estimate of teaching assistants supporting precollegiate humanities teachers is conservative, based on the assumption that every classroom kindergarten teacher is paired with an assistant. While teachers in other grades may also have assistants, calculating an estimate of the number of such personnel is not possible because available data cannot be broken out by academic subject.

Postsecondary Teaching: The estimate of postsecondary humanities faculty includes teaching jobs in the nation’s colleges (including two-year institutions) and universities, as well as several thousand in other institutional settings, such as corporate firms and government agencies. This estimate was calculated by summing across those humanities disciplines for which the BLS produces postsecondary faculty employment estimates—namely, English language and literature, languages and literatures other than English, history, area/cultural/ethnic studies, philosophy, and religion. Another BLS disciplinary category, “arts, drama, and music,” could not be considered for this indicator because BLS does not distinguish between faculty positions in arts-related humanistic disciplines such as art history and those in the studio and performing arts. Thus this estimate is conservative.

The number of graduate research and teaching assistants in the humanities was estimated by multiplying the total number of such jobs (122,120) by the proportion of graduate students who were studying humanities in the mid-2000s (.16; calculated using enrollment data collected as part of the National Research Council’s “Data-Based Assessment of Research-Doctorate Programs in the United States”).

Alternative Education in the Humanities: Some proportion of these positions may involve the teaching of nonhumanities subjects (disaggregating these positions by subject matter taught is not possible, so this figure may be an overestimate).

Employment in Humanities Institutions

This estimate excludes employment of the types included under “Humanities Research and Teaching” and “Humanities Occupations.” The jobs described here involve the technical, administrative, customer service, and maintenance functions essential to the operation of key types of humanities institutions.

Colleges and Universities: The ACS data on which this estimate is based cannot be disaggregated by academic discipline. Consequently, arriving at an estimate of the proportion of college and university support staff whose employment is attributable to the existence of humanities departments on the nation’s college and university campuses is difficult. Nonetheless, the job count cited above can provide a useful starting point for thinking about the extent of nonfaculty employment generated by the humanities.

According to the ACS, employment in administration, food service, computer network support, security, construction, and other nonfaculty positions was 3,463,789 in 2008 (this figure excludes employment in the “Humanities Occupations” category addressed above). This total was multiplied by the proportion of all bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees that were awarded in humanities disciplines (.09; see “Undergraduate Degrees in the Humanities,” and “Advanced Degrees in the Humanities”) to obtain the amount of nonfaculty employment that was attributable to the postsecondary humanities enterprise (the number of support staff employed by these institutions is largely a function of the number of students served).

Humanities Museums: These include museums classified by the American Association of Museums (AAM) as art museums, general museums, history museums, historic houses and sites, and historical societies. Employment was estimated by multiplying total museum employment in 2008 (357,841; this figure has been adjusted to exclude employment in humanities occupations) by an estimate derived from AAM data of the proportion of the nation’s museum personnel who work in the types of museums mentioned above (.36). This estimate excludes the many unpaid volunteers who work as tour guides and docents in such museums.

Primary and Secondary Schools: According to the ACS, school employment in jobs other than teaching and the humanities occupations was 3,310,095 in 2008. This figure was multiplied by .19, the share of all elementary and secondary schoolteachers who teach humanities subjects, to obtain an estimate of the share of education personnel who support precollegiate humanities instruction.

Employment in Book, Newspaper, and Periodical Publishing (excluding Internet-only Publishing)

Because the U.S. Economic Census (EC) does not ask employers to describe the different types of jobs its employees perform, HI personnel were unable, on the basis of these data alone, to exclude the already-tallied jobs in humanities occupations. As a way of estimating the share of jobs that should be excluded in order to avoid double counting (e.g., many editors work in the publishing industry but should not be counted here because they are included in the total for “Humanities Occupations”), HI personnel used data from BLS’s OES program to determine the share of the entire non-Internet publishing sector (including directory and mailing list publishing) engaged in the humanities occupations mentioned above (.21). This proportion was subtracted from the total for the newspaper, book, and periodical publishing sector (619,751) to yield an estimate of almost half a million.

This estimate does not include self-employment (e.g., freelance illustrators and designers).

Employment for Internet publishing could not be estimated because existing data sources include under the heading of “Internet publishing” a variety of business types—Internet gaming, discount coupon publishing, and so on—that are not humanities-related. According to the 2007 EC, employment by firms engaged in Internet-only publishing constituted only a small proportion, approximately 7%, of all (nonsoftware) publishing.

Back to Humanities Indicators