The National Endowment for the Arts has released a study, Artists in the Workforce: 2000–2005, gauging the employment and wage rates of artists. With "artist" broadly defined as everything from architects and designers to fine artists and poets and crossword-puzzle creators, the average income is $43,230 while the median income of the entire labor force is $39,280.

There are 2.1 million artists in the U.S., according to the study, which uses data for 2005–09 gathered by the American Community Survey, a yearly assessment by the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Of those, 828,747, or 39 percent, of respondents identified themselves as designers. That catchall includes commercial and industrial, fashion, floral, graphic, interior, merchandise and theatrical and exhibition designers. Performing artists, from musicians to entertainers, make up 17 percent of the pie, while architects tie with the fine artists/art directors/animators, at 10 percent each. Writers make up 9 percent of the respondents, and producers/directors and photographers bring up the rear with 7 percent each.

The study is a follow-up to the NEA's 2008 report surveying workforce trends from 1999 to 2005, which found, generally, that artists are more entrepreneurial (aka self-employed or underemployed) and better educated than the average American.  The new study confirms the earlier findings and adds the news flash that artists tend to congregate in metropolitan areas, which- ask a New York artist-makes the nominally higher median income of $43,230 less than comfortable.

According to additional data from the U.S. Current Population Survey, 264,000 people identified "artist" as a secondary job, meaning, as many creative individuals well know, that their primary income comes from a day job. As for earning power, architects come out on top with an average salary of $63,111. Fine artists, art directors and animators make about half that, $33,982.

Some other findings:

Among full-year, full-time artists, women earn 81 cents for every dollar earned by men.

The category including fine artists has the highest rate of self-employment at 54.7 percent.

States with the largest art labor forces are New York (2.3 percent of total) and California (2 percent).

 

PHOTO: TRACEY EMIN, I'VE GOT IT ALL, 1997.