The Economic Impact of America’s Nonprofit Arts and Culture Industry

On June 17, 2017, Americans for the Arts released its fifth national study of the
economic impact of arts organizations on local communities. The study, Arts &
Economic Prosperity 5 (AEP5), is the largest study of its kind ever conducted. The
report demonstrates what is known to be true: the nonprofit arts and culture industry is
an economic driver in communities – a growth industry that supports jobs, generates
government revenue, and is a cornerstone of tourism.

The Arts Mean Business
AEP5 is Americans for the Arts’ economic impact study of the nation’s nonprofit arts
and cultural organizations and their audiences. By every measure,the results are
impressive. Nationally, the nonprofit arts industry generated $166.3 billion of economic
activity in 2015 – $63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an
additional $102.5 billion in event-related expenditures by their audiences. This activity
supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in revenue to local, state, and
federal governments (a yield well beyond their collective $5 billion in arts allocations).
AEP5 is the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted. It provides detailed
economic impact findings on 341 study regions representing all 50 states and the
District of Columbia. Data was gathered from 14,439 organizations and 212,691
audience spending surveys. Americans for the Arts’ project economist customized input-
output models for each and every study region to ensure reliable and actionable
localized results.

When Americans for the Arts published its first economic impact study in 1994, it
worked with 33 local partners. As evidence of the value of these studies, AEP5 has grown
this local participation ten-fold. It has witnessed a corresponding growth in the
understanding of the economic value of the arts. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis,
for example, now publishes an annual Arts & Cultural Production Satellite Account,
which extends beyond the nonprofit sector to include the full breadth of commercial and
for-profit arts, education, and individual artists and lists the sector as a $730 billion
industry (4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP – a larger share of the economy than
transportation, tourism, agriculture, and construction). State and local governments
have established agencies to track and grow their creative economy.