Thursday, April 1, 2021

It's a photo of a large crowd at a concert, with rainbow colors lighting up the stage.

On March 30, 2021 the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) released their annual Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA) report—an expansive set of measures of arts and culture in the U.S. economy, including its share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The arts are a larger segment of the economy than most people realize. In 2019, the nation’s arts and culture sector—nonprofit, commercial, education—was a $919.7 billion industry that supported 5.2 million jobs.

  • Arts and culture represents 4.3% of the nation’s economy—a larger share of GDP than powerhouse sectors such as construction, agriculture, and transportation. Worth remembering is that transportation and agriculture have major federal agencies to ensure their stability and effectiveness and are represented in the President’s Cabinet.
  • If the arts industry were a state, its $919.7 billion would be larger than the total state economy of 46 of the 50 states.

With the exception of 2009, during the Great Recession, the arts sector has grown steadily in recent years. In fact, between 2017 and 2019, the annual growth rate of the arts outperformed the entire U.S. economy (+3.0% vs. +2.6% per year).

The Arts are a Powerful Export Industry

The arts continue to generate a widening international trade surplus. From 2006 to 2019, this surplus has grown 10‐fold, to more than $33 billion.

State Arts & Cultural Production Satellite Account Data Available

The arts continue to be an important share of state economies. In New York, for example, the arts are a $123.2 billion industry (7.0% of “Gross State Product” or “GSP”) that supports 504,393 jobs. You can view your state’s data and see how the arts stack up to other industries here.

Note: The BEA made small revisions to the 2015-2017 national data sets. Thus, numbers you may have grown accustomed to in the past will look slightly different the next time you see them. The 2017 national figure, for example, is now $855 billion and no longer $878 billion.

Further Reading

BEA’s report and website:

NEA’s report:

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash.