For The First Time U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Will Measure Contribution of the Arts to Gross Domestic Product

First-ever partnership between NEA and BEA will offer detailed, national data on the arts sector of the economy

WASHINGTON, DC -- "A creative economy is the fuel of magnificence," said Ralph Waldo Emerson in an 1857 essay. For the first time, the American creative sector will be measured on a macroeconomic level by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the federal agency of record on the U.S. economy and a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In a groundbreaking partnership, the BEA and the National Endowment for the Arts will develop an "Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account" (ACPSA). This new account will identify and calculate the arts and culture sector's contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a measure representing the final dollar value of all goods and services produced in the United States. The ACPSA will collect detailed information on a select group of arts and cultural goods, services, and industries -- both commercial and not-for-profit -- that are currently reflected in the GDP. The NEA announced the news today at the public session of the National Council on the Arts.

"Before this, you could look at pieces of the puzzle, now you can see the whole puzzle," said NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman. "Our partnership with BEA gives the arts the same level of precise, national data on GDP as other sectors like manufacturing, construction, and services. I think economists and policymakers will take notice."

The BEA satellite account reflects the NEA's new research agenda, which has begun to look at 'impact analysis,' or how the arts affect various domains of human life, such as the economy, human development, science and technology, and education. Starting this year, the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account will identify and measure industries and commodities that involve creative or cultural engagement, or help bring creative and cultural goods and services to the public. For example, the satellite account will include national-level data on the number of people employed by museums, or theater production expenses, or revenues at architectural firms. Additionally, the account can report figures on worker compensation in the music industry, or the value added by the book publishing industry to the U.S. economy. The arts satellite account will tap into data to which only certain agencies have routine access, and it uses the same methodology as existing BEA satellite accounts on travel and tourism, research and development, and health care. 

This new satellite account will offer far more detail, and far more precision on the arts sector. Previously, the BEA reported estimates for select arts domains (such as the performing arts) every five years with the benchmark Input-Output Table, and the estimates were very broad, sometimes combined with other sectors such as sports and recreation. The ACPSA will delve into specific industry details; in the performing arts category for example, it will parse data on dance, theater, and music. The ACPSA will also include estimates of "direct" employment, such as employment at publishing firms or art dealerships, as well as "indirect" employment, which refers to employment in industries that produce goods and services for the arts and cultural industries. 
In 2013, both BEA and NEA will release preliminary estimates on relevant creative and cultural industries, including estimates on annual outputs (such as revenue and expenses), direct and indirect employment, compensation, and "value-added," which refers to an industry's contribution to the economy through its labor and capital, excluding material and energy costs. In 2014, BEA will release final estimates, and publish the findings in The Survey of Current Business, a key publication for leaders in economics and policy. 

About NEA Research

The NEA is the only federal agency to conduct long-term and detailed analyses of arts participation. For more than 30 years, the NEA Office of Research & Analysis has produced periodic research reports, brochures, and notes on significant topics affecting artists and arts organizations, often in partnership with other federal agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Recently, the NEA announced a new arts research grant opportunity. The NEA is committed to extending the conversation about arts participation by making data available to both the research community and the public at large. 

The NEA’s new commitment to impact analysis can also be seen in the NEA's Task Force on the Arts and Human Development, which brings together 14 federal agencies and departments to identify gaps and opportunities in arts research across the lifespan, from childhood to old age. The NEA recently unveiled its five-year research plan and the "How Art Works" system map, a conceptual framework to help understand and measure the complex arts ecosystem. Beyond the research and policy discussions, the NEA has also launched a new research grant category to support research projects on the value and impact of the arts in the United States. Woven throughout these efforts is a commitment to public dialogue on NEA arts research, facilitated through conferences, public webinars, and webcasts, available on the Research Convenings page of

About the National Endowment for the Arts

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector. To join the discussion on how art works, visit the NEA at


Sally Gifford