"Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005," a 140-page study, was released this week by the NEA and is the first nationwide look at artists and their demographic and employment patterns in the 21st century. The report profiles eleven different artistic occupations, including actors; announcers; architects; art directors, fine artists and animators; dancers and choreographers; designers; entertainers and performers; musicians; photographers; producers and directors; and finally writers and authors. The study draws its conclusions from the U.S. Census Bureau data and other government agencies and arts organizations. Here are some of the NEA’s findings:
Numbering almost two million, artists are one of the largest classes of workers in the nation, representing 1.4 percent of the U.S. labor force. As a group, artists number only slightly less than the U.S. military’s active-duty and reserve personnel, which stands at about 2.2 million. Based on the findings in "Artists in the Workforce," artists earn some $70 billion annually, but the median income from all sources in 2005 for an artist was $34,800, higher than the $30,100 median for the total labor force, but well under the average for professionals of $43,200. And artists generally earn less money than workers with similar education levels.
Between 1970 and 1990, the number of artists more than doubled, from 737,000 to 1.7 million -- a much larger percentage gain than for the labor force as a whole. Between 1990 and 2005, the growth of artists slowed to a 16 percent rate, about the same as for the overall labor force.
Some of the findings were a little surprising. For example, computers have apparently led to a decline in traditional visual artists. There was a huge jump in those who identify themselves as "designers," which includes Web designers. The number of art directors, fine artists and animators fell from around 280,000 in 1990 to around 220,000 in 2005. Designers, nearly 40 percent of all artists, increased from around 600,000 to around 780,000.