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More People Report Having Taken Arts Classes, Survey Shows

A series of new reports from the National Endowment for the Arts offers some good news for those worried that participation in arts education has dwindled.

The reports look at how and why Americans participate in the arts, as well as arts and cultural industries' contributions to the nation's economy. 

The studies, which use data from several large surveys and the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, include the following key findings on arts education:

  • The percentage of people who report having had lessons or classes in the arts at any point in their lives was higher in 2012 than in 2002. Sunil Iyengar, NEA's ArtsChart1.JPGresearch director, said in an interview that this was somewhat surprising because until 2012, those percentages were decreasing. The increase was greatest among 18-to-24-year-olds. "Whether [the growth] is in school or out of school, we don't know. But that's at least heartening that's going on," he said. Music has remained the most popular art form studied.
  • The disparities among demographic subgroups of people who've had arts education are smaller than they have been in the past. 
  • Childhood exposure to the arts was a strong predictor of later engagement in the arts, such as attending performances and visiting museums.
  • In 2012, people were more likely to do their arts learning in school vs. out of school, with the exception of dance.
  • Arts education production contributed nearly 1 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product in 2003. By 2012, that percentage had declined to 0.66. Iyengar suggested in an interview that could possibly be, in part, due to the arts being integrated into other classes and lessons. Even so, "arts education still is a significant portion of the economy," he said. 
  • Arts education makes up 9.4 percent of the arts and cultural economy.
  • The government at all levels funds 88 percent of arts education. "Given the primacy role of arts education in supporting broader participation in the arts, it's important to recognize that so much of this arts education is being provided by the government—by local schools, state government, and to some extent the federal government," said Iyengar. "Right now I think there's a very healthy relationship with the nonprofit community-based arts sector and schools. That said, it doesn't erase the fact that the government seems to be predominantly responsible for arts education in this country."

Below are links to the full reports (which are a bit tough to navigate on the site itself):

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