Title of Dataset

Annual Arts Basic Survey (AABS)


Conducted annually since 2013, with odd-numbered years asking about arts attendance, literary reading, and arts education for adults, and with even-numbered years asking about personal performance or creation of art.

Target Population

Civilians, non-institutionalized, 18 years and older

Geographic Coverage

AABS estimates are available for: the U.S., regions, 32 states, and 11 metropolitan areas


Conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the National Endowment for the Arts

Research Topic

Arts participation

Notable Features

Surveys U.S. adults on participation in a variety of arts activities:

  • Attending a live music, theater, or dance performance
  • Movie-going
  • Attending an art exhibit
  • Attending a live book-reading, poetry, or storytelling event
  • Literary reading
  • Taking an arts class or lesson
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Performing or practicing singing
  • Creativing films or photographs for artistic purposes
  • Creative writing
  • Creating pottery, ceramics, or jewelry

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) is a comprehensive and detailed survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau as part of the agency’s household surveys, particularly the Current Population Survey (CPS), which has served as the host survey to the SPPA since 2002.

Because the SPPA is conducted on a five-year basis, it is an effective data source for comparing arts participation patterns over relatively long intervals.  Due to its timetable, however, the SPPA does not permit an understanding of more incremental changes in U.S. arts participation trends.

The Annual Arts Basic Survey (AABS), also conducted by the Census Bureau as a supplement to the CPS, features selected summary questions drawn from the SPPA. Although less detailed than the larger survey, the AABS provides, for the first time, annual estimates of U.S. participation in the arts.

The annual AABS thus enables more frequent trend analysis than does the SPPA. To date, it has been fielded in 2013, 2014, and 2015. The AABS waves alternate between surveys capturing arts participation through attendance, and surveys denoting participation through personal performance and creation. (The AABS is not conducted in years when the SPPA occurs.)

The SPPA has shown significant declines in attendance at performing arts events and at art museums/galleries over long timeframes, particularly for the decade spanning 2002-2012.

The AABS findings, which extend just beyond that period, suggest that recent levels of attendance are holding steady while literary reading continues its decline. Also, over the AABS period, levels of personal creation and performance of art appear largely constant, with a few notable exceptions.