Americans for the Arts compiles National Arts Index, a cultural S&P 500

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Americans for the Arts, a leading advocacy group, has compiled reams of statistics about the nonprofit arts and commercial entertainment that have been squirreled away in all sorts of governmental and private research cubbyholes, and it has boiled them down to a single number, the National Arts Index, which aims to reflect the state of health of American arts and entertainment.

The number is 97.7. It isn’t good. To find out why, click here for the full story.


Among many other things, the 139-page report, available on Americans for the Arts’ website, looks at the state of the nation’s cultural workforce.

It indicates that since 1999, the average inflation-adjusted wages in 45 artistic occupations ranged from a low of $41,320 (2002) to a high of $49,450 (2003), and stood at $48,473 in 2009.

Besides the traditional arts, the jobs under the federally compiled list used in the study include: floral, jewelry, interior and fashion design; technical writing, advertising copy-writing and journalism; theater ushers and ticket takers; and agents and business managers for artists and athletes. Since 2004, the number of workers in the 45 occupations has shown a modest, gradual increase of 121,000, reaching a total of 1.7 million in 2009. Of those, about 676,000 said in 2008 that they were independent artists, writers and performers.

Two broader measures of arts-related jobs -- one based on a federal survey of industries, another a private Dun & Bradstreet compilation of workplaces -- show steady employment totals since the late 1990s. The feds counted 2.1 million jobs at 218,000 companies and organizations in 2008; in 2009, Dun & Bradstreet reported 3 million jobs at 668,000 business locations (individual companies can have more than one location).

Americans for the Arts reports that arts and cultural workers account for 1.7% or 1.3% of all workers, depending on which of two federally compiled data sets you want to go by: actual 2008 employees (the higher number) or people pursuing 2009 occupations (the lower one).

-- Mike Boehm