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Artists in the Workforce: 1990 to 2005

March 30, 200930 March 2009

Situation of artists

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Using counts from the census and the American Community Survey, this report indicates that there are about 2 million artists in the U.S., or 1.4% of the overall American labour force. Median income from all sources is $34,800 for artists, which is higher than the overall labour force median ($30,100) but lower than the median for other professionals ($43,200).

Direct comparisons of these statistics with recent Canadian reports should not be made, because the American report uses a very different definition of “artists” than the Canadian reports. The U.S. report includes 11 summary artist occupations, which include many more detailed occupations. In contrast, recent Canadian reports included nine detailed occupation codes from a different occupational classification. Some occupations that are included in the U.S. report but not in recent Canadian reports include architects and designers. These are two of the three largest occupation groups in the American tally, accounting for nearly half of the total number of artists. These occupations also have relatively high median earnings, especially architects. Another difference is that the American study reports median income from all sources, while the Canadian studies highlight median and average employment income only.

Despite the differences, some of the overall trends are similar to Canadian trends:

  • The number of artists grew significantly between 1970 and 1990 but levelled off in more recent years.
  • Artists, on average, are better educated and more likely to be self-employed than other workers.
  • Fewer artists than other workers have full-year, full-time occupations.
  • On average, artists earn less than other similarly-educated professionals.
  • Dancers have particularly low incomes.
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