Demographic Characteristics of U.S. Business‐Owners in the Arts

This research brief is based on an analysis of 2017 data from the Annual Business Survey (ABS). The ABS is conducted jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics within the National Science Foundation.

The analysis and accompanying tables report employer businesses classifiable by gender and racial/ethnic “minority” status (i.e., Hispanic or non‐White) for arts‐related industries in the following sectors: arts, entertainment, and recreation; information services; professional, scientific, and technical services; educational services; manufacturing; and retail trade.

Businesses classified as owned by women or by members of racial/ethnic minority groups exclude tax‐exempt organizations.

A reliable demographic profile of U.S. arts business‐owners can permit a better understanding of how race‐, ethnicity‐, and gender‐based differences that have been observed in other cultural statistics—disparities that show up in data about arts participation or arts occupations, for example—are mirrored partly by organizational characteristics. Previous reports from the National Endowment for the Arts such as U.S. Patterns of Arts Participation, The Arts in Neighborhood Choice, and Artists and Other Cultural Workers (all released in 2019) examined varying levels of arts access and arts‐related income by these and other demographic factors.

With this new analysis, the NEA’s Office of Research & Analysis aims to support the efforts of U.S. cultural policy‐makers and funders to improve equitable opportunities for arts participation—including through ownership of arts‐related businesses. Earlier this year, the NEA and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that in the year prior to the COVID‐19 pandemic (2019), arts industries contributed $919.7 billion, or 4.3 percent, of the nation’s GDP. As these industries continue to recover and to resume their historically rapid rates of growth, it is essential that women and minority racial/ethnic groups become more fully represented in the leadership and ownership of arts businesses.

Subscribe to the California ArtBeat weekly newsletter

Skip to content