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The Arts Contribute More Than $760 Billion to U.S. Economy

Posted on: Mar 7, 2018

Yesterday, the National Endowment for the Arts, in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, released a report that shows the immense economic impact of the arts and cultural sector in the United States. The data shows that the arts contribute more than $760 billion to the U.S. economy, and employ almost 5 million workers across the U.S. The release of this report comes at essential time, as we await news regarding funding for the NEA in FY 2018, and fight to support the NEA after President Trump again recommended to eliminate funding for arts and cultural agencies again in FY 2019.

The full report, published on the NEA's website, is available for reading below.


The Arts Contribute More Than $760 Billion to the U.S. Economy

New Findings Released on Economic Impact of Arts

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 over $370 billion. Furthermore, the arts exported $20 billion more than imported, providing a positive trade balance.

Produced by the BEA and NEA, the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACSPA) tracks the annual economic impact of arts and cultural production from 35 industries, both commercial and non-profit. The ACPSA reports on economic measures—value-added to gross domestic product (GDP) as well as employment and compensation. For the first time, the report also includes the arts impact on state economies as contributions to gross state product (GSP). The numbers in this report are from 2015, the most recent reporting year.

“The robust data present in the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account 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. “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.”



  • 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.

By Industry

  • Among the fastest-growing industries within the ACPSA are web-streaming and web-publishing, performing arts presenting, design, and architectural services.
  • Tax-exempt performing arts organizations (those producing art and those presenting the art of others) contributed $9 billion to the U.S. economy and employed 90,000 workers, who earned $5.6 billion in total compensation.
  • Consumers spent $31.6 billion on admissions to performing arts events, $1 billion more than projected. 
  • The value added by performing arts presenting (tax-exempt and for-profit) rose by 9.5 percent during the recent three-year period.

By State

The value-added to a state’s economy defined as contributions to the GSP is noted for individual ACPSA industries and the states in which that industry ranked above the national average. For example, as a percentage of GSP, Nevada is at the top for performing arts companies and Louisiana follows only California and New York as the premiere state for movie production. For all state findings, see this arts data profile. Other leading states are:

  • Graphic design in Illinois contributed $589.5 billion to GSP, 69 percent above the national rate.
  • Architectural services in Massachusetts added $804.6 million, 73% greater than the national rate.
  • Industrial design in Michigan added $429 million, 9 times the national rate.
  • Jewelry manufacturing in Rhode Island is $224 million, 33 times the national rate
  • Artā€related printing in Wisconsin contributed $530.9 million to the state’s economy, four times greater than the national rate.
  • In a research brief looking at rural states, North Carolina and Tennessee had the largest rural arts economies with value-added from rural areas in both states totaling more than $13 billion. 
  • In a research brief about the fastest-growing arts economies, Washington State and Utah topped the list with average annual growth rates over five percent between 2012 and 2015. 

More state examples are on the State Highlights Fact Sheet.


The NEA, BEA, and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies have developed resources to help users navigate the data. 

  • Through an award from the NEA, the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies produced an interactive dashboard that allows users to explore key information for individual states.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis’s state fact sheets feature ACPSA value-added, employment, compensation, top industries, trends, and rankings for 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Two interactive infographics produced by the NEA offer a quick and fun look at national and state data.


About the National Endowment for the Arts

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. Please visit arts.gov