January 25, 2022

New Report: “The Humanities in American Life”

“The Humanities in American Life” report was published today by the Humanities Indicators Project of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

From a Report Summary:

With funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the survey was administered in fall 2019 to a nationally representative sample of 5,015 American adults (drawn from NORC at the University of Chicago’s AmeriSpeak panel).

Key Findings in the Four Topic Areas Indicate:

Attitudes about the Humanities

  • 85% of Americans respond favorably to the term “humanities” after it has been defined for them.
  • Although most Americans have a favorable view of the humanities generally, people are more enthusiastic about science and history.
    86% of Americans agree that the humanities strengthen American democracy, and 73% agree that they make the economy stronger.
  • But 22% of adults believe that the humanities are “not really for people like me,” and more than half of adults believe the humanities attract people who are elitist and pretentious.

Engagement with the Humanities

  • 97% of Americans occasionally engage in at least one form of humanities activity (and a majority frequently engage in three or more).
  • Few people engage frequently in a broad range of humanities activities, or even in all the activities associated with a given discipline.
  • Black Americans are more engaged with the humanities than the general public, due principally to higher rates of religious text study, literary and poetry event attendance, and online sharing of humanities content.

The Humanities in Childhood and Education

  • Almost 95% of Americans agree that the humanities should be an important part of every American’s education.
  • College graduates are more likely to have been highly exposed to the humanities as children than people with only a high school education.
    With the exception of reading, a majority of Americans do not remember seeing their parents often engaging in humanities activities.
  • 53% of American adults recall seeing their parents read often, but only 36% recall frequently participating in reading activities with them.

Humanities Skills in the Workplace

  • 81% of Americans frequently use at least one humanities skill in their jobs.
  • Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are less likely than older Americans to use humanities skills at work.
  • 57% of American workers often write to describe or explain something on their jobs (and another 20% do so sometimes).
  • 9% of Americans often use a language other than English on their jobs.

Direct to Full Text Report (HTML)

Direct to Full Text Report (PDF)
108 pages; PDF.

Additional Report Resources

Visual Summary of the Results

Discipline-Specific Analyses

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.