The vast majority of humanities graduates are happy with their choice of degree, says the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
More undergraduates majored in the humanities in 2011 than did so a decade ago, but federal support for research in those disciplines accounted for less than one-half of 1 percent of the money given to colleges for science and engineering.
Those two data points appear in a new "report card" on the humanitiesthat was released on Tuesday by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in an effort to keep the topic of the humanities in the public eye.
While worrying about the state of the humanities is a perennial topic, it has attracted renewed attention after recent reports by the academy and byHarvard University, said John E. Tessitore, director of programming for the academy, which is based in Cambridge, Mass.
"There's been a steady conversation going on about the place of the humanities in American life," Mr. Tessitore said. "This was an attempt to capitalize on that."
The report card does not contain new data. It gathers information from the 233-year-old academy's continuing compilation of statistics, which it calls the humanities indicators, and highlights some bright spots in what is often described in gloomy terms.
For example, about four million people worked in humanities-related jobs, like museum curator or humanities teacher, from 2007 to 2009. More than 115,000 students earned baccalaureate degrees in the humanities in 2011, a 20-percent increase in absolute terms over a decade earlier. And 84 percent of students who earned bachelor's degrees in the humanities said they were satisfied with their choice of major one year after graduation.
There is still plenty of gloom, too. The share of all bachelor's degrees conferred in the humanities continues to be fairly small, at about 11 percent, though that has been the case for decades. And humanities research receives 0.48 percent of what the federal research budget gives to higher education for science and engineering.
The report card also shares some tidbits that are neither good nor bad but interesting: 19 percent of the members of Congress majored in the humanities as undergraduates, a share exceeded by the 26 percent who earned degrees in vocational fields and the 37 percent in the social sciences. The least frequent major was "the sciences," at 8 percent.
While such data add nuance to the discussion of the role of the humanities, it will probably not answer larger questions about the relevance and more-lasting results of earning a degree in those subjects, said Robert B. Townsend, director of the academy's Washington office.
"You'd love to have more data on how majors affect somebody's long-term career or their voting patterns," he said, "but such things haven't been quantified."