Although the role of the humanities in the economic life of the United States may not be as readily apparent as that of engineering, for example, the humanities are, in fact, crucial to many fundamental elements and functions of modern economic productivity. Institutions such as museums and universities, as well as business enterprises in publishing and journalism, generate employment, returns on private investments, and tax revenues. They also depend on the humanistic skills of critical thinking, reading, writing, and speaking, and, while these skills have always been important, they have become increasingly vital to today’s knowledge-based economy, which requires a strong humanities workforce.

The extent and the characteristics of this workforce are the focus of the first section of this part of the Humanities Indicators. Data gathered for inclusion there treat not only occupations involved in the creation or dissemination of humanities knowledge, but also those jobs that are performed in humanities institutions (e.g, a cashier in an art museum gift shop) or that support humanistic endeavors (e.g., the janitorial or food service jobs at universities). The next two sections look more closely at another important issue—namely, the relationship between higher education in the humanities and subsequent employment. What are the occupations and professions of those who received their undergraduate and graduate degrees in the humanities? What are their salaries compared to those with educational backgrounds in other fields? What are their levels of job satisfaction? This part of the Humanities Indicators concludes with a section that focuses on a segment of the humanities workforce that has attracted much attention in recent years: postsecondary faculty. While this section covers such topics as their demographic characteristics and institutional status, the data also allow for comparisons of humanities faculty with those who teach in other fields and thus can help to inform ongoing debates about the flexibility and diversity of the academic workforce.