New Report Reveals Findings on Artists and Other Cultural Workers

Cover of report Artists and Cultural Workers
Washington, DC—The National Endowment for the Arts is releasing the third in a series of research reports describing the arts ecosystem in the United States. Available today, the Office of Research & Analysis (ORA) at the Arts Endowment presents Artists and Other Cultural Workers: A Statistical Portrait. Incorporating data from six federal sources, the new report examines employment trends, demographic characteristics, earnings, and other attributes of those working in the arts and cultural sector.  Artists and Other Cultural Workers complements the agency’s previous reports on the economic impact of arts and culture (2019 Report of the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account) and rates of participation in arts and cultural activities (U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading: 2002-2017). Together, the three reports improve public understanding of how arts and culture are integral to everyday life.  Among the report's key findings are: More than five million workers are employed in arts and cultural industries as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). •    The BEA identifies 35 industries ranging from architectural services to sound recording. In whole or in part, these industries make up a distinct sector of the nation’s economy—the arts and cultural sector. The BEA bases its analysis on industry figures; therefore, only salaried workers (vs. those who are self-employed) are included in its calculations. Nearly 2.5 million workers are artists as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The following data includes those who are either self-employed or wage-and-salary workers. •    People who spend the majority of their work time pursuing an artistic practice are defined as artists.       o    There are 11 artist occupations including actors, designers, musicians, photographers. A complete list is available here.   •    In addition to the 2.5 million artists in this category, there are approximately 333,000 workers who hold secondary jobs as artists.  •    Roughly 1.2 million workers hold a primary job in a cultural occupation, but not as an artist.       o    Among these cultural occupations are editors, librarians, metal workers, and ticket takers. A complete list is available here. Artists are becoming a larger share of the U.S. labor force as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. •    In 2006, artists comprised 1.42 percent of the labor force; by 2017, they were 1.55 percent, representing a 9.2 percent increase.  •    In 2017, the artist unemployment rate hit an 11-year low.  •    As a group, artists experience unemployment rates similar to those of all U.S. workers.  Artists are 3.6 times as likely as other workers to be self-employed as measured by the U.S. Census Bureau.  •    Between 2012 and 2016, roughly 34 percent of all artists were self-employed. This compares with 9 percent of all workers.  •    Most self-employed artists like their work arrangement: 79 percent say they would prefer not to work for someone else, while 58 percent cite flexible schedules and independence as the main reasons they are self-employed.  About the National Endowment for the Arts Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the Arts Endowment supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit


Victoria Hutter,, 202-682-5692