The National Endowment for the Arts Releases New Research Tool on Working Artists

First in a series of online Arts Data Profiles tallies artists at the state and metro levels, breaks out key demographic characteristics

WASHINGTON, DC -- What do we know about the 2.1 million artists in the United States' labor force? To help answer that question, the NEA today released "Equal Opportunity Data Mining: National Statistics about Working Artists." This new online research tool offers 70 searchable tables with figures on working artists by state and metropolitan area, by demographic information (including race and ethnicity, age, gender, and disability status), and by residence and workplace. The public is welcome to investigate the tables, a map of state-level rankings, and links to original sources.

"Artists represent just 1.4 percent of the labor force, but they have an outsized role as entrepreneurs and innovators who contribute to the vitality of the communities where they live and work," said NEA Acting Chairman Joan Shigekawa. "These data add further detail and nuance to our understanding of the profile of American artists."

This new research resource gives statistical profiles of Americans who reported an artist occupation as their primary job, whether full-time, part-time, or self-employed. The dataset looks at artists in 11 distinct occupations, including actors; announcers; architects; art directors, fine artists, and animators; dancers and choreographers; designers; entertainers and performers; musicians; photographers; producers and directors; and writers and authors. Some tables offer data on employed artists in particular, while other tables measure all artists in the workforce, both employed and looking for work.

The NEA created these datasets based on the U.S. Census Bureau's Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Tables. Every ten years, the Census Bureau produces EEO tables using data from its annual American Community Survey (ACS). This set of EEO Tables are drawn from the ACS survey results for 2006-2010, which were combined to obtain a large enough sample. The  EEO Tables are the federal standard for comparing the race, ethnicity, and gender composition of the labor market in specific geographic areas and job categories. 

"Equal Opportunity Data Mining" is the first installment of a series of Arts Data Profile web pages that the NEA will release over the next several months. Future NEA Arts Data Profiles will introduce public data about arts participation and arts organizations, and additional data on artists in the workforce. 

Some findings that emerge from the EEO tables:

  • One-fourth of all U.S. architects are women. Yet in Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, and Washington, the share is roughly one-third. By contrast, in Arkansas, West Virginia, and Wyoming, nearly all architects are men.
  • Nationally, 4 percent of all artists are disabled, compared with 6 percent of the labor force. At 7 percent, the share of dancers and musicians with a disability is somewhat higher. The percentage of working musicians with a disability is comparatively high in Alaska (25 percent), Alabama (14 percent), Kentucky (16 percent), and Wisconsin (13 percent).
  • In  Oregon, 40 percent of working actors are African-American, Asian, Native-American or Pacific Islander or other, while these ethnic and racial groups make up only 20 percent of the total Oregon labor force. 
  • Roughly one-quarter of musicians working in Nashville commute to the city from outside areas.  For example, an estimated 100 musicians commute 13 miles from Hendersonville (Sumner County); 20 musicians commute from Franklin, and an additional 65 musicians commute to Nashville from other parts of Williamson County. 

The research tool also includes a video tutorial, links to additional resources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau's American Fact Finder page, and surveys and databases from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

For more than 30 years, the National Endowment for the Arts is has been the only federal agency to use U.S. Census data to analyze artists in the workforce. The NEA seeks to extend the conversation on arts research through commissioned research, direct research grants, and research convenings to encourage more rigorous research on the impact of the arts in other domains of American life, such as education, health and well-being, community livability, and economic prosperity. Recent endeavors include a landmark partnership between the NEA and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to develop an "Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account" that will identify and calculate the arts and culture sector's contributions to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The NEA has convened 17 federal agencies in the NEA Interagency Task Force on the Arts and Human Development, to foster more research on the arts' role in improving health and educational outcomes throughout the lifespan. Just published, Creative Communities from Brookings Institution Press is based on a first-ever co-convening between the NEA and the Brookings Institution on the arts and economic development.
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