The Arts Basic Survey

The Arts Basic Survey (ABS) is a short-form edition of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA), which typically has been conducted on a five-year basis. The ABS and the SPPA are designed by the National Endowment for the Arts and fielded by the U.S. Census Bureau as a supplement to the Current Population Survey.

The 2020 ABS covered the pre-pandemic period of February 2019 to 2020. Respondents to the 2020 survey were asked one of two sets of questions pertaining to either: (1) attendance at live arts events and literary reading; or (2) personally performing or creating art. 



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


Target Population

Civilians, non-institutionalized, 18 years and older


Geographic Coverage

Estimates are provided for: the U.S.; regions; states for which corresponding coefficients of variation do not exceed 30 percent; and 11 metropolitan statistical areas


Research Topic

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

  • Attending a live music, theater, or dance performance
  • Attending an art exhibit
  • Attending a live book-reading, poetry, or storytelling event
  • Visiting buildings, neighborhoods, parks, or monuments because of their historical, architectural, or design value
  • Reading literature
  • Movie-going
  • Working with pottery, ceramics, or jewelry
  • Doing leatherwork, metalwork, or woodwork
  • Doing weaving, crocheting, quilting, or other textile art
  • Playing a musical instrument
  • Doing acting
  • Performing or practicing dance
  • Doing social dance
  • Creating films or videos for artistic purposes
  • Taking photographs for artistic purposes
  • Creating other visual art such as paintings and sculptures
  • Do creative writing


Notable Features

National-level demographics of arts participants

State-level estimates of arts participation

Trends in arts participation


Example Findings

  • The comparatively low rates of arts participation for Blacks/African Americans and Hispanics are partially offset after one accounts for differences in education level between these groups.
  • For most types of arts activity, five states show consistently higher rates of arts participation, compared with U.S. adults as a whole. Those states are: Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, Montana, Oregon, and Utah.
  • Within each state, the following factors are correlated with rates of arts attendance and literary reading: educational level, poverty status, and the state’s concentration of arts workers. None of these factors, however, are closely linked to levels of music-instrument playing or working with pottery or creating other visual art within a state.
  • Between 2015 and 2020, the share of adults who read literature—novels or short stories, poetry, or plays-fell from 43.1 percent to 39.9 percent.
  • Over the same period, the share of adults visiting buildings, neighborhoods, parks, or monuments for historical, architectural, or design value rose from 27.4 percent to 30.8 percent.