Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


new-building

The Old Post Office Pavilion, home of the National Endowment for the Arts. (PHOTO: WYN VAN DEVANTER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Report Paints Grim Picture of Arts, Culture Economy

• December 05, 2013 • 11:33 AM

The Old Post Office Pavilion, home of the National Endowment for the Arts. (PHOTO: WYN VAN DEVANTER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Production of cultural goods and services took a huge hit with the recession, and has been slow to rebound.

Pretty much every sector of the economy was battered during the great recession, but the artistic and creative community suffered more than most. And, at least as of two years ago, there was little sign of recovery.

That distressing news is contained in a report released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts. It finds that, for 2011, “the value added from arts and cultural production accounted for nearly 3.2 percent, or $504 billion,” of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a common gauge of economic activity.

That figure was in the 3.5 to 3.7 percent range in the first half of the 2000s. It dipped to 3.2 percent in 2009, and has been stuck there ever since.

The total gross output of “arts and cultural goods and services” in 2011 was just under $916 billion. The advertising industry generated the biggest slice of that total: nearly $200 billion.

That still represents a significant slice of the overall economy. In 2011, two million Americans were employed in the arts and culture category, including 310,000 in the motion-picture industry, and 100,000 each for museums and the performing arts.

But employment levels in this sector took a real dive in 2009—much greater than the economy as a whole—and had yet to fully recover as of 2011. Employment in cultural production (as broadly defined by the federal government) declined roughly one percent from 2010 to 2011—a much smaller figure than the previous few years, but still on the negative side of the ledger.

The total gross output of “arts and cultural goods and services” in 2011 was just under $916 billion. The advertising industry generated the biggest slice of that total: nearly $200 billion. Arts education, including fine arts schools and college and university fine arts and performing arts departments, placed second, at just under $104 billion.

Close behind were cable television production and distribution ($100 billion); motion pictures and video ($83 billion); independent artists and the performing arts ($49 billion); and book, newspaper, and magazine publishing ($41 billion).

In case you were wondering, the advertising-industry figure is limited to the creative side. To put it in Mad Men terms, Don Draper and Peggy Olson’s salaries are included; Pete Campbell’s is not.

So NEA senior deputy chairman Joan Shigekawa is correct to note that, beyond its “contributions of ideas and creativity to the nation’s economy,” the output of artists, writers, and other creative types is economically significant in itself. But its impact is significantly smaller than it was in 2000 or 2005. Even if there has been an upturn in the past two years, it will likely have a long way to go to reach its pre-recession levels.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

November 26 • 4:00 PM

Turmoil at JPMorgan

Examiners are reportedly blocked from doing their job as “London Whale” trades blow up.


November 26 • 2:00 PM

Rich Kids Are More Likely to Be Working for Dad

Nepotism is alive and well, especially for the well-off.


November 26 • 12:00 PM

How Do You Make a Living, Taxidermist?

Taxidermist Katie Innamorato talks to Noah Davis about learning her craft, seeing it become trendy, and the going-rate for a “Moss Fox.”


November 26 • 10:28 AM

Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals’ actions pile up quickly.


November 26 • 10:13 AM

Honeybees Touring America


November 26 • 10:00 AM

Understanding Money

In How to Speak Money, John Lanchester explains how the monied people talk about their mountains of cash.


November 26 • 8:00 AM

The Exponential Benefits of Eating Less

Eating less food—whole food and junk food, meat and plants, organic and conventional, GMO and non-GMO—would do a lot more than just better our personal health.


November 26 • 6:00 AM

The Incorruptible Bodies of Saints

Their figures were helped along by embalming, but, somehow, everyone forgot that part.


November 26 • 4:00 AM

The Geography of Real Estate Markets Is Shifting Under Our Feet

Policies aimed at unleashing supply in order to make housing more affordable are relying on outdated models.



November 25 • 4:00 PM

Is the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Doing Enough to Monitor Wall Street?

Bank President William Dudley says supervision is stronger than ever, but Democratic senators are unconvinced: “You need to fix it, Mr. Dudley, or we need to get someone who will.”


November 25 • 3:30 PM

Cultural Activities Help Seniors Retain Health Literacy

New research finds a link between the ability to process health-related information and regular attendance at movies, plays, and concerts.


November 25 • 12:00 PM

Why Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

You can thank the rise of the vibrator for that, according to technology historian Rachel Maines.


November 25 • 10:08 AM

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.


November 25 • 10:00 AM

If It’s Yellow, Seriously, Let It Mellow

If you actually care about water and the future of the species, you’ll think twice about flushing.


November 25 • 8:00 AM

Sometimes You Should Just Say No to Surgery

The introduction of national thyroid cancer screening in South Korea led to a 15-fold increase in diagnoses and a corresponding explosion of operations—but no difference in mortality rates. This is a prime example of over-diagnosis that’s contributing to bloated health care costs.



November 25 • 6:00 AM

The Long War Between Highbrow and Lowbrow

Despise The Avengers? Loathe the snobs who despise The Avengers? You’re not the first.


November 25 • 4:00 AM

Are Women More Open to Sex Than They Admit?

New research questions the conventional wisdom that men overestimate women’s level of sexual interest in them.


November 25 • 2:00 AM

The Geography of Innovation, or, Why Almost All Japanese People Hate Root Beer

Innovation is not a product of population density, but of something else entirely.


November 24 • 4:00 PM

Federal Reserve Announces Sweeping Review of Its Big Bank Oversight

The Federal Reserve Board wants to look at whether the views of examiners are being heard by higher-ups.



November 24 • 2:00 PM

That Catcalling Video Is a Reminder of Why Research Methods Are So Important

If your methods aren’t sound then neither are your findings.


November 24 • 12:00 PM

Yes, Republicans Can Still Win the White House

If the economy in 2016 is where it was in 2012 or better, Democrats will likely retain the White House. If not, well….


November 24 • 11:36 AM

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it’s relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.


Follow us


Attitudes About Race Affect Actions, Even When They Don’t

Tiny effects of attitudes on individuals' actions pile up quickly.

Geography, Race, and LOLs

The online lexicon spreads through racial and ethnic groups as much as it does through geography and other traditional linguistic measures.

Feeling—Not Being—Wealthy Cuts Support for Economic Redistribution

A new study suggests it's relative wealth that leads people to oppose taxing the rich and giving to the poor.

Sufferers of Social Anxiety Disorder, Your Friends Like You

The first study of friends' perceptions suggest they know something's off with their pals but like them just the same.

Standing Up for My Group by Kicking Yours

Members of a minority ethnic group are less likely to express support for gay equality if they believe their own group suffers from discrimination.

The Big One

One in two United States senators and two in five House members who left office between 1998 and 2004 became lobbyists. November/December 2014

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.