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Pandemic Priorities: Exploring unemployment and demographic characteristics of arts and culture workforces and artists across the U.S.

March 18, 2022

For over 10 years, SMU DataArts has studied the demographic makeup of arts and culture workforces and boards to help organizations better understand themselves and the communities in which they serve. From Los Angeles to Houston, from to museum professionals, we have surveyed demographic characteristics related to race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability status, workplace perceptions, and more. While the results of these localized studies are very beneficial to participating organizations and their local communities, it is difficult to use this data to generalize about the state of the entire arts and culture sector in the United States.In 2021, we extended our demographics work beyond just our own studies and evaluated national data about the sector in an effort to gain deeper understanding about the makeup of the aggregate arts and culture workforce. Using data from the United States Census Bureau, in partnership with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), via their survey known as the Current Population Survey (CPS), we are now able to assess the demographic characteristics of not only those employed in the sector but also those who are unemployed on a near real-time basis.This report explores the demographic characteristics of arts and culture workforces, both employed and unemployed, and its appendix provides contextual information about the Current Population Survey's applications and limitations as related to the arts and culture sector. Additionally, this analysis will look specifically at artists employed beyond just the arts and culture sector to better understand the larger ecosystem. We start in January 2020 to establish a baseline of pre-pandemic employment characteristics and track the monthly progression through January 2022.