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Artists and Other Cultural Workers: A Statistical Portrait

July 31, 201931 July 2019

Situation of artists

National Endowment for the Arts

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Based on an analysis of six United States federal government datasets (from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of the Labor, the Arts and Cultural Satellite Account, and the U.S. Census Bureau), this report examines the number of artists and cultural workers in the arts and cultural industries, their employment characteristics (e.g., self-employment, waged or salaried work, part-time or full-time work), education levels, other demographic information, and employment earnings.

Direct comparisons of statistics in this report with recent Canadian reports should not be made, because the reports use different definitions of artists. The American report includes 11 summary occupation groups, encompassing 26 detailed occupation codes. In contrast, recent Canadian reports include 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, two of the largest occupation groups in the American data, accounting for nearly half of the total number of artists. These occupations, especially architects, have relatively high employment earnings.

The report finds that there are over five million workers employed in the arts and cultural industries in the U.S., including nearly 2.5 million artists. In 2017, artists comprise 1.55% of the overall labour force. The percentage of artists who are women (46%) is similar to the overall U.S. workforce, but there are substantial differences by arts occupation.

Artists in the U.S. are more highly educated than the overall labour force: 63% of artists aged 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, compared with 36% of all workers. Approximately 34% of artists are self-employed, much higher than the 9% of all American workers. Compared with all workers, artists are less likely to work full-time and full-year: 59% of artists work at least 35 hours per week for 50 to 52 weeks vs. 67% of the overall workforce.

In terms of income, the estimated median earnings of American artists (working full-time and full-year) is $52,800 (approximately $70,600 CAD), which is higher than the median for all workers ($44,640, or $59,700 CAD). The report notes that “women artists earn $0.77 for every dollar men artists earn”.

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