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NEA Study: Arts Contributed $704.2 Billion To 2013 U.S. Economy, 32.5% Increase Since 1998


While federal government funding for the arts has been a controversial subject since the late 1980s, when previously little-known artists like Andres Serrano, Robert Mapplethorpe, Karen Finley and Holly Hughes received national attention because of grants awarded either to them or to organizations that displayed their work, studies are continually providing evidence that the arts contributes greatly to local economies.

New data from the National Endowment for the Arts and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, covering figures from 1998 to 2013, spotlight fast-growing arts industries, export trends, employment figures, consumer data and more, concluding that arts and cultural production contributed $704.2 billion to the United States economy, a 32.5 percent increase since 1998.

Consumer spending on the performing arts grew 10 percent annually over the same 15-year period.

"The new data show that the production of performing arts services has grown at a faster clip than arts and cultural production in general, contributing $44.5 billion to the U.S. economy in 2013," says NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu.

"Notably, the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account reveals that Americans are choosing to spend more on performing arts events such as concerts, plays, and dance performances. This tells us that the arts remain a valuable and desirable commodity for U.S. consumers and that the arts are a strong contributor to America's economic vitality."

Among the new findings:

Theaters contributed $7.1 billion, followed by music (including jazz, rock, and country bands and artists) at $4.2 billion, and symphony orchestras and chamber groups at $2.1 billion.

Between 1998-2013, performing arts (both for-profit and nonprofit industries) - including music, theater, opera, circus, ice-skating, and magic shows - showed a combined 4.6 percent annual growth rate, well above the 1.1 percent average annual growth rate for all ACPSA commodities. In particular, over the same period, the growth rates for opera production and theater were 7.5 and 6.3 percent, respectively.

In 2013, arts and cultural production contributed $704.2 billion to the U.S. economy, or 4.23 percent of GDP. Arts and culture produced more than some other sectors, such as construction ($619B) and utilities ($270B). Top arts and culture industries included: broadcasting (excluding sports); motion picture industries; publishing (excluding Internet); arts?related retail trade (such as art galleries, book stores, and music stores); performing arts companies and independent artists, writers, and performers; and creative advertising services.

Over the 15-year period (1998-2013), arts and cultural production grew by $165 billion or 32.5 percent. The annual growth rate for arts and culture as a whole (1.8 percent) was on par with that of the total U.S. economy (1.9 percent). But it grew faster than other sectors such as accommodation and food services (1.4 percent), retail trade (1.3 percent), and transportation and warehousing (1.1 percent).

The industry with the fastest growth in arts and culture production between 1998 and 2013 was "other information services," a category that includes online publishing, broadcasting, and streaming services (12.3 percent). Other fast-growing industries were sound recording (9.5 percent), arts-related computer systems design (including services for films and sound recordings) (7.7 percent), and regular broadcasting (5 percent).

In 2013, arts and cultural sector employed 4.7 million wage and salary workers, earning $339 billion. Industries employing the largest number of ACPSA workers include government (including school-based arts education), retail trade, broadcasting, motion picture industries, and publishing.

Since 2006, U.S. arts and culture has run a trade surplus that's grown every year (currently at $24.1B in 2013). Top 2013 arts and cultural exports were: movies and TV shows ($15.9B), arts-related software publishing (i.e. games, photo processing software) ($9.9B), jewelry and silverware ($8.1B), creative advertising ($7.1B), architectural services ($3B). Copyright-intensive types of commodities (movies, TV, arts-related software publishing and advertising) accounted for $33B or more than half of all ACPSA exports ($59.5 billion). Top export markets for movies and TV shows: the United Kingdom (22.6 percent), Canada (9.3 percent), Germany (8.8 percent), France (5.1 percent), Australia (4.8 percent), and Japan (4.2 percent).

While there's no one way to define the creative economy, a good proxy is GDP produced by copyright-intensive industries (like broadcasting, movies, publishing, and performing arts). In 2013, arts and cultural production made up nearly half of the entire U.S. copyright?intensive creative economy ($435B of $887B). Copyright-intensive arts and cultural production are among the fastest-growing of all ACPSA goods or services, with an average annual growth of 3.5 percent versus 1.8 percent for all ACPSA production between 1998-2013.

Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America's rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. Go to to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary timeline.

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From This Author Michael Dale