States of Engagement: Arts Participation by U.S. Geography (2012)

Posted January 2015

Title of Dataset

Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA)


Conducted on a five-year basis since 1982, with the most recent wave occurring in 2012.

Target Population

U.S. civilians, non-institutionalized, 16 years and over

Geographic Coverage

SPPA estimates are available for: the U.S.; regions; regional sub-divisions; 32 states; and 11 metropolitan areas.


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

Research Topic

Arts participation; attendance at performing arts and visual arts events; personal creation and performing; participation in leisure activities.

Notable Features

  • Polls U.S. adults (ages 18 and older) on participation in a large variety of arts and leisure activities:
    • Attendance at performing arts and visual arts events
    • Participation in the arts through media
    • Reading books and literature
    • Participation in leisure activities
    • Participation in art classes (as an adult and in childhood)
    • Preferences in music listening
  • At the U.S. level, includes reliable demographic and economic characteristics of respondents
  • Can be linked to other CPS supplements such as the Annual Demographic File

Since 2002, the SPPA has been conducted as a supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS), a nationally represented survey of 60,000 households. The CPS, done in partnership between the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is used by policymakers, governments, researchers, and other users of economic and labor force data.

In addition to national estimates, the SPPA can be used to tally arts participation for 32 states and 11 metropolitan areas. However, due to smaller samples sizes for these sub-national areas, it is difficult to strictly rank states by arts participation. Once the survey's margin of error is considered, most states fall into a mid-level range of participation, while a few states typically compose high and low ends of the state or metro-level distribution.