SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


The Boston Conservatory, Boston, MA. Photo by Eric Antoniou. The Boston Conservatory, Boston, MA. Photo by Eric Antoniou.

Unemployment in the Arts Doubled the National Average During the Pandemic

In the early months of the pandemic, unemployment in the arts and culture sector spiked to nearly 30% while the national rate hit about 15%. As new data becomes available, we explore demographic trends and study the effect of COVID-19 relief funds. 

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Key Takeaways

While this data is imperfect, it is a critical tool in identifying gaps in representativeness and can empower organizations to innovate and better serve their communities.

  • Unemployment in the arts was double that of overall national unemployment, and BIPOC and disabled individuals were disproportionately affected. 
    • Unemployment spiked to nearly 30% early in the pandemic, while national unemployment hit 15%.
    • Black, Indigenous, Asian, multiracial, and disabled individuals saw higher rates of unemployment than the sector overall.
  • Gender representation in the arts was higher for women, but men saw faster job recovery after the pandemic’s onset. 
    • Respondents identifying as female represented a higher percentage of those employed in the arts and culture workforce as compared to those identifying as male.
  • Artists across all sectors recognized slightly higher unemployment than the nationwide average but represented a smaller portion of BIPOC individuals compared to the country overall.
    • Unemployment for artists was nearly 2% higher on average than the national unemployment rate throughout the pandemic (using the NEA's definition of artistic occupations). 
    • The demographic profile of artists in January 2022 represented proportionally fewer individuals identifying as Black, Indigenous, Asian, and multiracial than the national population. 

Studying Early Pandemic Data: Did Giving Sustain the Arts?

Two years after doors closed across the nation, we have the data that reveals how shifts in revenue impacted arts organizations and resulted in a greater reliance on giving.

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People are Opting to Stay Home and the Effect on Arts Ticket Sales is Clear

New data suggests that waning vaccine efficacy, soaring infection rates, and breakthrough cases have shifted demand patterns among the vaccinated as people opt to just stay home.

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