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June 13, 2008

« NYC - "Outsourcing Location" | Main | Left-Brained Cities »

Arts_economy_2 The NY Times reports on a major new study by the National Endowment for the Arts on the state of professional artists in the 21st century.

In 2005 nearly two million Americans said their primary employment was in jobs that the census defines as artists’ occupations — including architects, interior designers and window dressers. Their combined income was about $70 billion, a median of $34,800 each. Another 300,000 said artist was their second job ...

San Francisco leads metropolitan areas in the proportion of artists in the work force, followed by Santa Fe (which ranks first in writers and fine artists), Los Angeles, New York and Stamford-Norwalk in suburban Connecticut. The Top 10 also include Boulder, Colo.; Danbury, Conn.; and Seattle. Orlando, Fla., leads in entertainers and performers.

The “Artists in the Workforce” report, prepared by Sunil Iyengar, the endowment’s director of research and analysis, identified 185,000 writers, 170,000 musicians and singers, nearly 150,000 photographers, nearly 40,000 actors and 25,000 dancers ...

Over all, artists make more than the national median income ($30,100). They are more highly educated but earn less than other professionals with the same level of schooling. They are likelier to be self-employed (about one in three and growing) and less likely to work full-time, year-round. (Dancers have the lowest median annual income of all artists, architects the highest — $20,000 and $58,000, respectively.)

The full report is here. Graphic from the New York Times.


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Four out of ten of the top ten cities are in California! However Oakland should have been included in the top five.

Michael Wells


I was surprised Portland didn't rank higher too (virtually tied with Oakland at 1.84%, ranked #22 & 23). However of the top 10 on this list, 6 are smallish art/college towns with labor forces under 200,000. If you look only at cities with over a million labor force, Portland and Oakland are 5 & 6 (if we let SF squeak in with 955K workers, we're 6 & 7.) And in the 11 areas with over 1 million workers, California has 4 (5 with SF).

The really impressive numbers are LA and NYC, with over 4 million workers each and 3.26 and 3.12 % artists!

if we go to States, New York is #1 (1.01%), California #2 (.976%) and Oregon #8 (.805%).


A big problem with this data is that it is from 2005 before the recession started. The biggest category is Designers which I assume is somehow related to the real estate industry such as interior designers, designers for new furniture, curtains, sinks, etc. Also, I would think that most of the musicians, photograhers, dancers, and entertainers are self employed and most of their work is in the domestic economy which does not help with the trade deficit.

If the survey was taken today I think the amount of revenue generated would be a lot less because of falling consumer spending. You can't build an economy around artists. Artists are generally the beneficiaries of economic growth not the driver. They generally depend on the domestic economy for their earnings. The exceptions are those artists involved in internationally tradeable goods and services such as artists involved in films that sell well overseas as well as architects that can provide services to people in other countries and bring back the money to their home country.

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