A Matter of Choice? Arts Participation Patterns of Americans with Disabilities

Posted April 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

Estimates from the SPPA are available for: the U.S.; regional sub-divisions; 32 states; and 11 metropolitan areas. However, estimates of small populations, including disabled adults, are unreliable at sub-national levels.


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 art classes (as an adult and in childhood)
  • 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.

The June 2008 CPS was the first to include questions about adult disability, which, within the CPS, is defined by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Policy. The 2012 SPPA, in turn, is the first arts-participation survey to draw on these questions to measure arts participation by disabled adults.

Nearly 28 million U.S. adults have some type of disability such as serious difficulties hearing, seeing, or walking. In 2012, more than 20 percent of disabled adults (6.4 million people) attended one or more performing arts event, including classical, jazz, or Latin concerts; opera performances; musical or non-musical plays; ballet or other dance performances; or an outdoor performing arts festival.

In that same year, one in four disabled adults went to a visual arts event, defined as attending a craft fair or festival; touring a park, monument, or neighborhood for its historic or design value; or visiting an art museum or gallery.