Friday, September 5, 2008

The NEA's "Artists in the Workforce" Study

Kerry Hugins, our excellent bookkeeper and dear friend, sent me this report after a delightful lunch discussion today. It was released in June of this year, but I hadn't read it.

It is the National Endowment for the Arts' "Artists in the Workforce" study. Every American professional artist should read at least the Executive Summary. Click here for the full 150-page version.

I've copied the cover page, hoping it will entice you to read more:

June 12, 2008

Washington, DC -- Today, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announces the release of Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005, the first nationwide look at artists’ demographic and employment patterns in the 21st century. Artists in the Workforce analyzes working artist trends, gathering new statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau to provide a comprehensive overview of this workforce segment, its maturation over the past 30 years, along with detailed information on specific artist occupations.

“Artists now play a huge but mostly unrecognized role in the new American economy of the 21st century,” said NEA Chairman Dana Gioia. “This report shows how important American artists are to both our nation’s cultural vitality and economic prosperity of our communities.”

Numbering almost two million, artists are one of the largest classes of workers in the nation, only slightly smaller than the U.S. military’s active-duty and reserve personnel (2.2 million). Artists now represent 1.4 percent of the U.S. labor force. While Artists in the Workforce is not an economic impact study, it does report the average income of various artist categories. Based on those statistics, artists earn an aggregate income of approximately $70 billion annually. The study compares artists with the labor force in general, reporting on factors such as geographic distribution, racial, ethnic, and gender composition, employment status, age, and education level. Among the key findings:

Demographic trends

  • Between 1970 and 1990, the number of artists more than doubled, from 737,000 to 1.7 million – a much larger percentage gain than for the labor force as a whole. Between 1990 and 2005, the growth of artists slowed to a 16 percent rate, about the same as for the overall labor force.
  • Women remain underrepresented in several artist occupations. Men outnumber women in architecture, announcing, music, production, and photography. Women outnumber men in the fields of dance, design, and writing.
  • Like the larger labor force, the artist population is becoming more diverse. The proportion of Hispanic, Asian, and American Indian artists grew from about nine percent of artists in 1990 to almost 15 percent by 2005.

Geographic distribution

  • Opportunities for artistic employment are greater in metropolitan areas. More than one-fifth of all U.S. artists live in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, and Boston. Half of all artists live in 30 metropolitan areas.
  • Unique regional concentrations emerge. New Mexico has the highest share of fine artists, Vermont has the highest proportion of writers, and Tennessee, the highest proportion of musicians.

Employment and income

  • Artists are entrepreneurial – 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed.
  • Artists are underemployed – one-third of artists work for only part of the year.
  • Artists generally earn less than workers with similar education levels. The median income from all sources in 2005 was $34,800 for artists, higher than the $30,100 median for the total labor force, and lower than the $43,200 for all professionals.

Education level

  • Artists are more educated. Artists are twice as likely to have a college degree as other U.S. workers.
  • The share of degree-holding artists rose between 1990 and 2005.
  • Among artist occupations with the highest educational attainment levels are architects, writers, and producers.

In addition, the report profiles 11 artist occupations, including actors; announcers; architects; art directors, fine artists and animators; dancers and choreographers; designers; entertainers and performers; musicians; photographers; producers and directors; writers and authors. Each occupation profile describes key characteristics such as median age and income, and includes data on employment sectors, such as non-profit, business, or self-employed. Artists in the Workforce also features 60 supporting tables with detailed information about artists by state, region, and metropolitan areas, gender, racial, and ethnic designations, and other categories.

“This report brings cohesion to a large, diverse, and important constituency served by the NEA,” said Sunil Iyengar, NEA Director of Research and Analysis. “It recognizes artists as a distinct and dynamic component of the total labor force.”

Artists in the Workforce assembled data from primary sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau’s 1990 and 2000 decennial censuses and the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) averages for 2003-2005. This report is the first attempt to study artists by using ACS data. The study focuses on Americans who named an artist occupation as their primary job. It is estimated that 300,000 Americans have secondary employment as artists.

NEA Office of Research and Analysis
Artists in the Workforce is the latest offering from the NEA Office of Research and Analysis, which has conducted authoritative and comprehensive research on artist workforce patterns and other subjects for more than 30 years. The NEA Research Division issues periodic research reports and briefs on significant topics affecting artists and arts organizations. Artists in the Workforce and other reports are available in print and electronic form in the Research section of the NEA website,

I have not yet delved into anything deeper than the executive summary, but it's an eye-opening study, painting some very clear pictures of how far we've come--and how far we have yet to go. It also gives an interesting perspective on an angle we artists have yet to capitalize on in getting a stronger voice in community affairs, the angle that we are an irreplaceable part of the economy, both as service providers and consumers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good evening

Thanks for sharing, I have digged this post