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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

NEA releases "Artists and Arts Workers in the United States"

December 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There are 2.1 million artists in the United States workforce, and a large portion of them — designers — contribute to industries whose products Americans use every day, according to new research from the National Endowment for the Arts.

"Artists and Arts Workers in the United States" offers the first combined analysis of artists and industries, state and metro employment rates, and new demographic information such as age, education levels, income, ethnicity, and other social characteristics.

This latest report builds on earlier NEA research — "Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005" — which identified key traits that differentiated artists from other U.S. workers. That report found artists to be entrepreneurial (more likely to be self-employed) and more educated than the workforce at large.

This latest research confirms those earlier conclusions and shares new data about the working artist. For example:

• More than one-third of artists in the survey (39 percent, or 829,000 workers) are designers (such as graphic, commercial, and industrial designers, fashion designers, floral designers, interior designers, merchandise displayers, and set and exhibit designers).

• More than half of artists (54 percent) work in the private, for-profit sector; 35 percent are self-employed.

• Women artists earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by men artists (this gap is similar to that in the overall labor force); professional women earn even less — 74 cents for every dollar earned by professional men.

The NEA analyzed data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey, a new annual survey tool that complements the decennial census. The note analyzed 11 distinct artist occupations: actors, announcers, architects, dancers and choreographers, designers, fine artists, art directors and animators, musicians, other entertainers, photographers, producers and directors, and writers and authors.

The NEA used a five-year data set (2005-2009) to get a large enough sample size for a thorough analysis. New data on employment patterns and freelance artists reveal more accurate totals for this mobile, entrepreneurial group of workers.

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