New NEA Reports Crunch the Numbers on Culture

The data for three new NEA reports have, for the first time, enabled the NEA to show a comprehensive view of a single year (2012) in the life of the arts and cultural sector from three different angles: supply, demand, and motivations for consumer behavior.

Written By

NewMusicBox Staff

The official logo for the NEA

The National Endowment for the Arts has issued three new reports about the impact of the arts and cultural industries on our overall gross domestic product (GDP), as well as how and why Americans participate in certain arts activities. The data for these three reports is all from 2012; it is the first time the NEA has been able to show a comprehensive view of a single year in the life of the arts and cultural sector from three different angles: supply, demand, and motivations for consumer behavior. The new information is intended to help arts providers and others more effectively understand and develop strategies to engage individuals and communities in the arts. Below are some highlights of these reports.

1. When Going Gets Tough: Barriers and Motivations Affecting Arts Attendance

In 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts partnered with the General Social Survey to ask why people attend arts events (specifically music, dance, theater, and visual arts). This report looks beyond demographics to discover the attitudes, motivations, and barriers for attending the arts at different life stages—the first time the NEA has published a report on this type of data. There were common barriers for 13 percent of the respondents—31 million adults—who were interested in a specific event, but did not go for some reason: lack of time (for nearly 60% of people with children under age six); trouble getting to the location (especially for the elderly and disabled); and not having someone to go with (22% of those who wanted to attend but chose not to). Socializing with friends or family members was an incentive for an overwhelming 73% of respondents who have attended cultural events (performances and exhibits). Despite similar household incomes and education, people who identify as “middle class” rather than “working class” were more likely to attend such events. For more key findings, go to Arts Data Profile #4.

2. A Decade of Arts Engagement: Findings from the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, 2002-2012

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) is the largest and most comprehensive survey of U.S. arts participation, with a total sample size exceeding 37,000 adults, ages 18 and over. The latest SPPA compares arts participation rates based on surveys from 2002, 2008, and 2012, as well as regional, state, and metro-area statistics. Several of the findings are particularly noteworthy. Adults who attended performing arts or visited museums as children were three to four times as likely to see shows or visit museums as adults. Nearly three-quarters of American adults—about 167 million people—used electronic media to view or listen to art, and large proportions of adults used electronic media to create music or visual art. Women participate in the arts at higher rates than men across almost all categories. (However, men are more than twice as likely as women to use electronic media to create or perform music, and they are also more likely to create visual art online.) Finally, more than half (54%) of all American adults attended at least one live music, theater, or dance performance in the past year, or they went to view an art exhibit; that’s about 120 million people. For more key findings, go to Arts Data Profile #5.

3. The Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA)

The ACPSA, a partnership between the NEA and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, is the first federal effort to provide an in-depth analysis of the arts and cultural sector’s contributions to current-dollar gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of the final dollar value of all goods and services produced in the USA. The revised estimates reveal the arts are a bigger driver of GDP and jobs than previously estimated. In 2012, arts and cultural production contributed more than $698 billion to the U.S. economy, or 4.32% to GDP—which is more than construction ($586.7B) or transportation and warehousing ($464.1B). Some 4.7 million workers were employed in the production of arts and cultural goods, receiving $334.9 billion in compensation. Arts and cultural spending has a ripple effect on the overall economy, boosting both commodities and jobs. (E.g. for every 100 jobs created from new demand for the arts, 62 additional jobs are also created.) For more key findings, go to Arts Data Profile #6.

The underlying data for the SPPA and GSS research reports are available to researchers, policymakers, and arts practitioners via a new online resource. Through the National Archive of Data on Arts & Culture (NADAC), the NEA provides free access to the data files and related resources, as well as a user-friendly platform for querying the data. Visit NADAC to learn more.

(—from the press release)