Just in: The arts ‘add $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy’

March 7, 2018 by norman lebrecht


The claim comes from the National Endowment for the Arts, which is down for abolition by President Trump.

Here’s the calculation, released today:

Washington, DC—New data released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) offers an insightful picture of the impact the arts have on the nation’s economy. The arts contribute $763.6 billion to the U.S. economy, more than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing.  The arts employ 4.9 million workers across the country with earnings of more than $370 billion. Furthermore, the arts exported $20 billion more than imported, providing a positive trade balance.

• The arts added four times more to the U.S. economy than the agricultural sector and $200 billion more than transportation or warehousing.

• The arts saw a $20 billion trade surplus, leading with movies and TV programs and jewelry.

• The arts trended positively between 2012 and 2015 with an average growth rate of 2.6 percent, slightly higher than 2.4 percent for the nation’s overall economy. Between 2014 and 2015, the growth rate was 4.9 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars.

We should perhaps be slightly wary of a computation that includes jewellery and junk TV.


Comments (13)

  1. Joe Shelby says:

    This is gonna backfire over here. People on the right-wing will use these numbers to justify killing off most of the government grants, because “the arts don’t need the money, see?”.

    1. red seewun says:

      government has no business being in the “art” business, at any level.

      you want art, you pay for it out of your pocket, not mine.

  2. PHF655 says:

    The Gross National Product of the United States is nearly 18 TRILLION Dollars. The 763 billion thus represents about 4 per cent. A substantial part of that figure must represent a multiplier – i.e. what direct spending on the arts generates in other sectors of the economy. Readers over the pond should keep in mind that, I believe, what Americans call a billion, is called a ‘milliard’ (no?) in the UK.

    1. Olassus says:

      “Movies and TV programs and jewelry” shows that “arts” for the NEA are not arts as anyone here on Slipped Disc would define them.

      President Trump is right to abolish this ignorant body and leave the arts (like education) to the states.

      He is also right to abolish PBS, with its Mark Shields and David Brooks dancing to the same tune in so-called debate.

  3. V.Lind says:

    God forbid that Trump manage to dismantle the NEA, but I think the NES has little to do with movies, television or jewellery, and I wonder what else this calculation is taking into account as “the arts.” (Shoes? millinery? garden centres?) Not denying that movies and TV are, or can be, art, nor jewellery design, for that matter. But if these slightly inflated-seeming figures include Hollywood grosses and sales of The Simpsons and CS as well as retaiI revenues from mall jewellers’, it seems a long way from the NEA mandate.

    There is a big difference between commercial endeavours that have artistic components, and the subsidised sector. I seriously doubt that a lot of the attendees at the ‘plexes on a Saturday night associate their activity with the arts,and in many cases (Trump Nation) would threaten anyone who so accused them with their concealed weapon.

    Yes, film and TV actors and writers are artists, or aspiring to be, but the business they work for has no concern about art, only about profit (indies, who are an insignificant portion of these numbers, possibly excepted). People putting on subsidised plays are trying something out, prepared to fail in the attempt, knowing that a failure will only teach them how to do better the next time. (And by the time you buy a ring or a pair of earrings from a jeweller, the artist is long gone — you are dealing strictly with merchants).

    1. Greg Hlatky says:

      As you must know, a disproportionate amount of gun violence in the US is due to members of monolithic Democratic voting blocs shooting one another. So the dig about “Trump Nation” threatening you sensitive aesthetes with scary firearms is out of place.

      The budget for the California Arts Council in 2017-18 is $19.5 million. That’s about 0.0008% of the state’s GDP ($2.5 trillion). Now if a state run by enlightened progressives – where those mean, nasty, treasonous Republicans are virtually extinct – can’t or won’t pony up more money for the arts what does that tell you? Of course if they chose to increase that budget considerably – and they are perfectly free to do so – it’s none of my concern. I don’t live there so it would neither pick my pocket nor break my leg.

      Should it ever come down, however, to my having a say in the matter of my own locale subsidizing the arts at European levels, I would have many questions to ask. One of them would be whether the taxpayers should be funding something rife with sexual assault, monstrous levels of income inequality, Byzantine financial chicanery and the ruthless exploitation and disposal of the lowly by the powerful.

      1. Sharon says:

        Man, for someone who is putting down the Democrats for putting down Republicans you sound like a real lefty!!
        As I have stated before, many fields of endeavor are “are rife with sexual assault, monstrous levels of income inequality, Byzantine financial chicanery and ruthless exploitation and disposal of the lowly by the powerful”. The reason these stories are coming to light in “this classical life” is because the media knows that they still have shock value because the public holds the classical arts world to a higher standard.

      2. Dorothea says:

        “As you must know, a disproportionate amount of gun violence in the US is due to members of monolithic Democratic voting blocs shooting one another“ —— that Conservative-speak in America for ‘black people shoot one another, so, whatever.’

        1. Petros Linardos says:

          Apparently opinions on reasons behind gun violence are divided.

          Not that different from opinions on the shape on the earth. For those interested, the next Flat Earth International Conference will be held in November, at Denver, CO (a swing state!):

          Others may prefer this webpage:

      3. Bruce says:

        Greg – it’s not a party thing. The US hates the arts, period. I don’t understand why the abolition of the NEA hasn’t happened yet. But in any case, the funding has shrunk to such low levels that government support is pretty much just symbolic.

        In fact, it might be healthier for the arts if we went ahead and got rid. of the NEA. As long as there is government money, no matter how scarce, there are foundations who tie their willingness to support your organization to your ability to get money from the government. If nobody could get money from the government, then that would no longer be a criterion for judging good or bad bets.

        At least then we wouldn’t have to put up with our hypocritical society paying lip service to the importance of the arts. It would even be refreshing, in a “yes, in fact I do beat my wife” kind of way, to have a political campaign where candidates could say “vote for me — I hate classical music just like the majority of good Americans… unlike my socialist opponent.”

  4. Luigi Nonono says:

    These studies always omit the all-important individual and focus solely on nonprofit organizations. It is misleading. The actual impact is much greater.

  5. Alvaro says:

    So: last weekend I went to a Soccer match, a movie, and bought some jewerly.


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