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

October 1 • 2:00 PM

Most People With Addiction Simply Grow Out of It. Why Is This Widely Denied?

The idea that addiction is typically a chronic, progressive disease that requires treatment is false, the evidence shows. Yet the “aging out” experience of the majority is ignored by treatment providers and journalists.


October 1 • 1:00 PM

Midlife Neuroticism Linked to Alzheimer’s Disease in Old Age

New research from Sweden suggests that the personality dimension is connected to who ultimately suffers from late-in-life dementia.



October 1 • 11:11 AM

The Creative Class Boondoggle in Downtown Las Vegas

On Tony Hsieh and the pseudoscience of “collisions.”


October 1 • 9:14 AM

Mysterious Resting State Networks Might Be What Allow Different Brain Therapies to Work

Deep brain stimulation and similar treatments target the hubs of larger resting-state networks in the brain, researchers find.


October 1 • 6:00 AM

Would You Like a Subscription with Your Coffee?

A new app hopes to unite local coffee shops while helping you find a cheap cup of good coffee.


October 1 • 4:00 AM

How to Plant a Library

Somewhere outside of Oslo, there are 1,000 newly-planted spruce trees. One hundred years from now, if everything goes to plan, they’ll be published together as 100 pieces of art.



September 30 • 10:09 AM

Trust Is Waning, and Inequality May Be to Blame

Trust in others and confidence in institutions is declining, while economic inequality creeps up, a new study shows.


September 30 • 8:00 AM

The Psychology of Penmanship

Graphology: It’s all (probably) bunk.



September 30 • 6:00 AM

The Medium Is the Message, 50 Years Later

Five decades on, what can Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media tell us about today?


September 30 • 4:00 AM

Grad School’s Mental Health Problem

Navigating the emotional stress of doctoral programs in a down market.


September 29 • 1:21 PM

Conference Call: Free Will Conference


September 29 • 12:00 PM

How Copyright Law Protects Art From Criticism

A case for allowing the copyright on Gone With the Wind to expire.


September 29 • 10:00 AM

Should We Be Told Who Funds Political Attack Ads?

On the value of campaign finance disclosure.


September 29 • 8:00 AM

Searching for a Man Named Penis

A quest to track down a real Penis proves difficult.


September 29 • 6:00 AM

Why Do So Many People Watch HGTV?

The same reason so many people watch NCIS or Law and Order: It’s all a procedural.


September 29 • 4:00 AM

The Link Between Depression and Terrorism

A new study from the United Kingdom finds a connection between depression and radicalization.


September 26 • 4:00 PM

Fast Track to a Spill?

Oil pipeline projects across America are speeding forward without environmental review.


September 26 • 2:00 PM

Why Liberals Love the Disease Theory of Addiction, by a Liberal Who Hates It

The disease model is convenient to liberals because it spares them having to say negative things about poor communities. But this conception of addiction harms the very people we wish to help.


September 26 • 1:21 PM

Race, Trust, and Split-Second Judgments


September 26 • 9:47 AM

Dopamine Might Be Behind Impulsive Behavior

A monkey study suggests the brain chemical makes what’s new and different more attractive.


September 26 • 8:00 AM

A Letter Becomes a Book Becomes a Play

Sarah Ruhl’s Dear Elizabeth: A Play in Letters From Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell and Back Again takes 900 pages of correspondence between the two poets and turns them into an on-stage performance.


September 26 • 7:00 AM

Sonic Hedgehog, DICER, and the Problem With Naming Genes

Wait, why is there a Pokemon gene?


Follow us


Mysterious Resting State Networks Might Be What Allow Different Brain Therapies to Work

Deep brain stimulation and similar treatments target the hubs of larger resting-state networks in the brain, researchers find.

Trust Is Waning, and Inequality May Be to Blame

Trust in others and confidence in institutions is declining, while economic inequality creeps up, a new study shows.

Dopamine Might Be Behind Impulsive Behavior

A monkey study suggests the brain chemical makes what's new and different more attractive.

School Counselors Do More Than You’d Think

Adding just one counselor to a school has an enormous impact on discipline and test scores, according to a new study.

How a Second Language Trains Your Brain for Math

Second languages strengthen the brain's executive control circuits, with benefits beyond words.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

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