Arts Industries Add $764 Billion Per Year to the US Economy, Says a Landmark New Study

The arts add twice as much to the US economy than the agriculture industry.

The arts economy is on the rise. Image courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts.

The arts contribute more than you might expect to the US economy, says a new joint report from the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis and the National Endowment for the Arts. The arts generate $763.6 billion per year, or 4.2 percent of the GDP, according to the study, which presents statistics gathered between 1998 and 2015.

The US also exported $20 billion more in art than it imported, providing a positive trade balance. All told, the 4.9 million people employed in America’s creative industries earned $372 billion in total compensation for 2015.

“The robust data present in the [report] show through hard evidence how and where arts and culture contribute value to the economies of communities throughout the nation,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu in a statement. “The data confirm that the arts play a meaningful role in our daily lives, including through the jobs we have, the products we purchase, and the experiences we share.”

This map shows the percents of state economies made up by the arts and culture. Image courtesy of the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

A map showing the percentages of state economies that are made up by arts and culture. Image courtesy of the US Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Adjusted for inflation, economic activity related to arts and culture increased 4.9 percent nationwide in 2015, and 2.6 percent on average between 2012 and 2015. Meanwhile, 45 states and the District of Columbia saw growth in the arts and cultural industries in 2015.

Here are a few more compelling facts highlighted in the report:

  • Washington and Utah have the country’s fastest-growing arts economies. Between 2012 and 2015, they both averaged above seven percent in their annual growth rates.
  • Arts industries add four times as much money to the country’s economy than agriculture, and $200 billion more than transportation or warehousing.
  • When it comes to building new arts facilities, Georgia is ahead of the curve, with a 37.1 percent average increase in cultural construction between 2012 and 2015.
  • Bolstered by the Smithsonian and other federal museums and monuments, arts and culture make up 8.4 percent ($10.2 billion) of the GDP of Washington, DC—more than any individual state.
  • Among the states, the arts account for the largest share of Washington’s economy: 7.9 percent, or $35.6 billion. On the strength of film and television production, California’s art economy brings in the most money among the states, with $174.6 billion, for an even seven percent overall.
  • New York ranks second in both categories, with the arts bringing in $114.1 billion, or 7.8 percent of its economy. The state’s 462,584 arts workers earned a collective $46.7 billion in 2015.
  • Delaware relies the least on the arts, which make up just 1.3 percent of the state’s economy, or $900 million.
  • Museums added $5.3 billion to the US economy in 2015, while fine arts schools generated $3.4 billion. Independent artists, writers, and performers contributed $22 billion.
  • Fine arts education services are on the rise, with a 2.4 percent increase in 2015, following 5.1 percent growth the previous year.
  • Americans spent $1 billion more than projected on tickets for performing arts events in 2015, or $31.6 billion overall.

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