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Indicator IV-1 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Funding Levels
NOTE TO READERS: Please include the following reference when citing data from this page: "American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Humanities Indicators,".
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Updated 4/16/2013 with data for fiscal years 2008–2013.

At the request of the Humanities Indicators, the National Humanities Alliance compiled NEH funding data from publicly available reports and documentation supplied by the endowment’s Office of Strategic Planning for years 1966 through 2007 (fiscal years, as are all years mentioned subsequently). These data have been combined with 2008–2013 data provided directly to the Humanities Indicators by NEH’s Office of Planning and Budget and adjusted for inflation (funding amounts are given in 2012 or 2013 dollars; for the nominal amounts, see Supporting Table IV-1a). They permit an examination of trends in NEH funding levels over the last several decades. The data reveal that the period between the late 1960s and 1979 was one of substantial, virtually uninterrupted growth in NEH funding, with appropriations for the agency increasing from approximately $42 million to over $460 million (Figure IV-1a). Funding, however, quickly dropped from this historic high, and after three years of marked reductions appropriations were down 32%.

Figure IV-1a, Full Size
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Thereafter, funding remained almost static until 1996, when another major contraction occurred. At that time, total appropriations to the agency were cut 38%, from $260 million to $161 million. Funding remained in the vicinity of this reduced level through 2013. In recent years, the high watermark for funding was 2010, when the agency received an appropriation of $176.9 million. But the effects of inflation and funding cuts brought the resources made available to the agency by Congress down to $146.0 million (a 17% decrease) by 2013.

As the figure also indicates, the president’s budget request 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. More recently, the years 2006–2009 were a period during which presidential requests were consistently lower than the appropriation received by the agency.

The NEH is a grant-making agency that distributes the bulk of its appropriations to organizations and individuals through various programs; it reserves a small but, as the data reveal, growing proportion of funding for administration. Although the absolute amounts of agency funding directed toward administrative purposes have been stable since the late 1970s, shrinking program budgets mean that from 1979 (the peak year of NEH funding) to 2013, the administrative share of the NEH budget increased from 7% to 19% of the total agency appropriation (Figure IV-1b).

Figure IV-1b, Full Size
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The NEH distributes program dollars in two forms: (1) as grants to state humanities councils according to a legislatively mandated formula (for a description of the formula by which monies are distributed among the councils and additional information on council funding, see Indicator IV-3, State Humanities Council Revenues); and (2) as discretionary awards made to individuals and organizations, including state humanities councils, mainly through national grant competitions (see Indicator IV-2, Distribution of NEH Program Funding among Activity Types, for an inventory of the major types of grant programs and the amount of funding allocated under each one; details about funded projects are available via a searchable database on the agency’s website). Figure IV-1c reveals that the amount of money distributed by formula to the councils has remained relatively constant since 1987. The substantial 1996 reduction in the agency’s budget impacted discretionary funds, which dropped from approximately $186 million in 1995 to just under $98 million in 1996. Discretionary funding remained near this lower level through 2013.

Figure IV-1c, Full Size
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The first column of Figure IV-1d lists the total amount of funding directed by the NEH in 2012 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, Florida, Georgia, Oregon, and Texas to a high of $7.46 for the District of Columbia. The uncommonly large size of District’s per capita amount is due, in part, to the fact that it includes not only grants but also the $1.3 million in program-related contracts awarded by the agency. (For a succinct discussion of the difference between government grants and contracts, see Apart from this exceptional case, the states receiving the largest allocations were Vermont ($2.42), Alaska ($2.40), Delaware, Massachusetts, and Wyoming (all between one and two dollars). National per capita funding for 2013 was 37 cents.

Figure IV-1d, Full Size
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