Artists in the Workforce: 1990-2005

Posted by Whitmore, June 13, 2008 01:21pm | Post a Comment

"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.

Artists tend to be more entrepreneurial -- 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed. And at the same time, artists are underemployed; one-third of all artists work for only part of the year. A couple of examples: only one out of eight actors works full time, and just one out of four musicians.
Artists holding college degrees rose between 1990 and 2005, and they are twice as likely to have a degree as any other U.S. workers. Among artist occupations with the highest educational attainment levels are architects, writers, and producers.

Women remain underrepresented in several artist occupations. Men outnumber women in architecture, music, production, and photography. Women outnumber men in the fields of dance, design, and writing. The percentage of artists who are Hispanic, Asian or Native American grew from 9 percent in 1990 to 15 percent in 2005.

The Pacific Coast region has the highest number of artists per capita, 95 per 10,000. The East South Central, which includes Alabama and Kentucky, has the fewest, 47 per 10,000. And some regions have their own unique concentrations of artists. New Mexico has the highest share of fine artists, mostly due to Santa Fe, which has the second highest number of overall artists per capita. Vermont has the highest proportion of writers, and Tennessee --  mostly due to Nashville -- has the highest proportion of musicians. Las Vegas has the highest rate of dancers and choreographers, whereas Orlando, Fla., home to Walt Disney World, leads the nation in entertainers and performers.

Since artistic employment opportunities are greater in metropolitan areas, nearly 20% of all U.S. artists live in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, and Boston. Los Angeles-Long Beach area has the most artists overall, around 140,000, followed by New York City, around 133,000. And half of all artists live in just 30 different metropolitan areas.

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