While some survey respondents were unfamiliar with the term “humanities” (apparently guessing that it had to do with the study of the human body), once they were given the definition “studying or participating in activities related to literature, languages, history, and philosophy,” most respondents had a high opinion of the subject. Predictably, people who were educated at liberal-arts colleges were the most favorable towards the humanities, but science and engineering graduates who had little personal exposure to the humanities “appeared to be among the most likely to use humanistic skills at work.”
Of seven skill areas included in the survey (ranging from reading and writing to working across cultural differences and using a language other than English), Americans used an average of four of them at least sometimes in the work-place, and 81 percent often used at least one of these skills in their jobs. More than half of Americans reported they worked with people from different cultures often or very often as part of their work, and about as many engaged in descriptive writing. And for almost every skill included in the survey, roughly one in four Americans believed a deficiency had hampered them in their job.
Engagement with the various humanities skills and activities in both the home and at work were strongly associated with income and education. Americans with either college educations or in the top income brackets were significantly more likely to make use of the humanities in their lives. Curiously, however, college graduates in engineering and computer sciences were among the least likely to engage in humanities activities in their private lives, but they appeared to be among the most likely to use humanistic skills at work, such as writing.