Press Release

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities Award $640,000 to the American Academy to Advance Comprehensive Data Collection for the Humanities


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The American Academy of Arts and Sciences has received major awards of support for data collection in the humanities that will significantly increase knowledge of the state of humanistic education and research in the United States.

Grants of $340,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and $300,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) will support the Academy’s Humanities Indicators (, the first comprehensive collection of statistical data about the humanities in the United States

“We are grateful to the NEH and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for their commitment to the Humanities and their confidence in the Academy,” according to Leslie C. Berlowitz, President of the American Academy and project co-director. “With their support, we will continue to be able to provide critical data on the state of the humanities to scholars, policymakers, and the public that will inform and enrich our national discussions for years to come.”

The American Academy works closely on this project with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) under the leadership of Norman Bradburn. Developed in collaboration with national humanities organizations, the Humanities Indicators provide reliable benchmarks to guide analysis of the state of the humanities in five areas: primary and secondary education, undergraduate and graduate education, the workforce, funding and research, and the humanities in American life. The Humanities Indicators website has attracted more than 1.5 million visitors since it was launched in January 2009.

“Before the Humanities Indicators, data concerning issues as fundamental as the number of students enrolled nationwide in courses devoted to the humanities either were entirely lacking or were inconsistently assembled, hard to access, poorly disseminated, unwittingly ignored, and routinely underutilized,” said Francis Oakley, President Emeritus of Williams College and co-founder of the Academy’s Initiative for Humanities and Culture. “Those of us who try to assess and write about the state of humanistic studies nationwide are grateful for the assistance that the Humanities Indicators has finally made so readily available.”

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s grant will help ensure that the Indicators remain accessible and updated with the latest available statistics and analysis. The NEH will join the in these efforts and help support the Academy’s first update to the Humanities Departmental Survey. The survey collects data from the chairs of art history, English, foreign language, history, history of science, linguistics, and religion departments at 1,400 four-year colleges and universities. The survey results will reveal up-to-date information on data trends in the curriculum and workforce.

"The Academy’s Humanities Indicators project offers a much-needed yardstick for measuring the health and impact of humanities research and education in America today," said Carole Watson, Deputy Chairman of the NEH. "The National Endowment for the Humanities is pleased to assist in this effort to provide academic leaders and policymakers the data they need to make informed decisions on humanities curricula, funding, and programs."Recent data from the Indicators reveal that:

  • Humanities degrees as a proportion of all bachelor’s degrees declined 46 percent.
  • More than half of students graduating from U.S. high schools in 2006 failed to demonstrate basic knowledge of history, and more than a third lacked basic knowledge of civics.
  • In 2003–2004, 28.2 percent of high school students were taught history by someone without certification or a postsecondary degree in history, a greater percentage than for any other measured subject area.
  • The United States ranks in the bottom third internationally in the percentage of its population possessing prose literacy skills necessary for successful secondary school completion (47 percent).

About the American Academy
Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences ( is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Current Academy research focuses on science and technology policy; global security; social policy; the humanities and culture; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy’s work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs from around the world

About the National Endowment for the Humanities
Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

About the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is devoted to sustaining the humanities and the arts. It currently makes grants in five core program areas: Higher Education and Scholarship; Scholarly Communications and Information Technology; Museums and Art Conservation; Performing Arts; and Conservation and the Environment. Including previous support, giving from the Mellon Foundation in support of the Humanities Indicators project totals more than $1 million.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Please use the following citation when mentioning data contained in the Humanities Indicators: “American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators,”




Humanities Indicators

Norman Marshall Bradburn and Robert B. Townsend