Hill Strategies Research on Arts Indicators and Well-Being

The latest issue of Hill Strategies' Arts Research Monitor focuses on four reports that attempt to examine the overall health of the arts and culture in different countries, including culture-specific indicators from the Canadian Index of Wellbeing and broad arts indexes from the U.S. and England.

Canadian Index of Wellbeing (2016)

Canadian Index of Wellbeing (University of Waterloo), 2016

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) looks beyond the key national economic indicator (Gross Domestic Product, or GDP) to attempt to measure “those areas of our lives that we care about the most, like education, health, the environment, and the relationships we have with others”. The CIW defines wellbeing as “the presence of the highest possible quality of life in its full breadth of expression focused on but not necessarily exclusive to: good living standards, robust health, a sustainable environment, vital communities, an educated populace, balanced time use, high levels of democratic participation, and access to and participation in leisure and culture”.

The CIW tracks 64 indicators related to eight domains, including “leisure and culture”. The index tracks these indicators back to 1994, and the index was set to 100 in that year. The overall Canadian Index of Wellbeing saw a 9.9% increase between 1994 and 2014, while GDP increased by 38% over this timeframe.

The report notes that leisure and culture contribute to individual and collective well-being, life satisfaction, and quality of life. The leisure and culture portion of the index decreased by 9.3% between 1994 and 2014, although it has recovered slightly from its lowest level in 2011. The environment was the only other domain to see an index decrease (2.9%) between 1994 and 2014.

The health of leisure and culture is estimated using eight indicators, five of which relate to the arts, culture, and heritage. (In comparison, three culture-specific indexes from the U.S. and England, reviewed in this issue of the Arts Research Monitor, include 12, 20, and 81 indicators.) Two key culture-related indicators in the CIW report also include recreation activities: hours spent volunteering for culture and recreation organizations and the percentage of household spending on culture and recreation.

The report indicates that “Canadians are spending substantially less of their incomes on culture and recreation, down 15.1% from 1994 levels, the bulk of which has occurred in the years since the recession” (2008/09). It should be noted, however, that Hill Strategies Research has not compared recent statistics on household spending on culture with data from 2009 or earlier, due to significant methodological changes in Statistics Canada’s household spending survey in 2010. It does not appear that CIW researchers accounted for this change in survey methodology.

Other culture-related indicators with a decrease between 1994 and 2014 include time spent on arts and culture activities and average number of hours spent volunteering for culture and recreation organizations. Two other culture-related indicators saw recent increases after previously declining: average attendance per performance at performing arts events and visits to national parks and historic sites.

The report argues that “leisure should be regarded not just as a basic human right, but should be considered a public good”. In this regard, the report urges governments to ensure “universal access to leisure and culture”.


National Arts Index 2016

Americans for the Arts, 2016

The 2016 report of the National Arts Index, based largely on data from 2013, highlights the “post-recession recovery” of the arts using 81 equally-weighted national indicators across four key dimensions: financial flows; capacity; arts participation; and competitiveness. The overall index value was 99.8 in 2013, higher than any year since 2009 but only back to the levels in the first two years measured (2002 and 2003). In other words, based on this index, the arts in America are in roughly the same health as in 2002.

The report indicates that the number of working artists increased by 6% between 2002 and 2013, from 2.1 to 2.2 million. In both years, artists represented 1.5% of the overall civilian labour force. The number of self-employed artists grew much more substantially (38%), from 554,000 in 2002 to 766,000 in 2013.

Consumer spending on the arts has remained fairly steady over time (roughly $150 billion each year). However, as a share of overall consumer spending, arts spending decreased from 1.83% in 2002 to 1.32% in 2013.

The arts sector includes 656,000 for-profit businesses and 95,000 not-for-profit organizations. However, the report indicates that many “arts nonprofits continue to be challenged financially”, with 42% of them posting a deficit in 2013. The report also notes that “arts organizations foster creativity and entrepreneurship” by continuing to produce new works: 11,500 new works were created between 2002 and 2013. The largest numbers of new works were movies (6,500), plays (3,054), and orchestral works (1,446).

Among other key findings in the report:

  • Audience engagement is changing, with decreases in the proportion of Americans attending art museums and some types of live performances, but an increase in attendance at popular music concerts.
  • Technological change continues to modify arts dissemination. For example, “in 2013, digital formats comprised 37% of total music sales”, and nearly one-half of music stores closed between 2003 and 2013.
  • “The arts help reduce the U.S. international trade deficit”.
  • Two general economic indicators are good predictors of the arts index: 1) private support for all types of charities; and 2) overall employment.

Americans for the Arts has decided to discontinue the index as of this release, which also provides a similar index for every county in the U.S.A.

NCAR Arts Vibrancy Index II (2016)Hotbeds of America’s Arts and Culture

National Center for Arts Research, March 2016

Arguing that “creativity is a desirable and necessary element for a thriving community”, this American report attempts to identify cities with particularly strong artistic vibrancy among 937 metropolitan areas in the U.S.A. Arts vibrancy, in the report, includes 12 indicators grouped into three key areas:

  • Arts providers, including the number of arts and culture organizations, employees in arts and culture organizations, employees in broader entertainment industries, and freelance artists. Arts providers received a 45% weighting in the overall index.
  • Arts dollars, including not-for-profit cultural organizations’ program revenues, contributed revenues, total expenses, and total compensation. Arts dollars also received a 45% weighting in the overall index.
  • Government grant activity in the arts, including the number and value of grants from the state and federal levels. Government support received a 10% weighting in the overall index.

The authors recognize that their measures of vibrancy do not capture information “about artistic quality, or the multitude of community conditions that make a place ripe for creative activity, or data on who participates in the arts, or the revenues and expenses of commercial entertainment”. However, the authors argue that the indicators in the report “represent a solid start using the most reliable sources of data available on a nationwide scale”.

Among cities with populations of 1 million or more, the highest-ranked metropolitan areas were Washington (D.C.), Nashville, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Among cities with a population under 1 million, Jackson (Wyoming) was highest ranked. Three Colorado municipalities were among the top five: Glenwood Springs (#2), Breckenridge (#4), and Edwards (#5). Santa Fe (New Mexico) ranked third.

The report highlights the dynamism of the rankings (15% of the top 40 communities are new to the list), the representation of every region of the country among the top 40, the diversity of strengths in the artistic vibrancy of different top communities, as well as the predominance of municipalities with populations under 300,000 and those with populations between 1 and 3 million.

Arts Index England 2007–2014

National Campaign for the Arts (England), 2015

This report attempts to provide a “health check” for the arts in England. Between 2007/o8 and 2013/14, the overall arts index increased from 99 to 111. Most of the increase in the index occurred between 2007 and 2011.

The report highlights changes in 20 equally-weighted national indicators in seven broad groups. Financial indicators have been adjusted for inflation, and almost all indicators are relative to the overall population.

  • Public funding decreased from the initial index value of 88 in 2007 to 70 in 2013. In particular, arts funding from the national Treasury decreased significantly in recent years. Lottery funding increased substantially during this timeframe, but local government funding decreased.
  • Non-government income has decreased somewhat due to decreases in business contributions and individual giving. On the other hand, earned revenues and foundation contributions have increased.
  • There has been an increase in the percentage of adults volunteering in the arts but no change in the percentage of students pursuing higher education in the creative arts.
  • The financial reserves of nationally-funded arts organizations increased between 2007 and 2014. In the latter part of this timeframe, these reserves decreased.
  • The attendance and participation indicators, as a group, increased between 2007 and 2013, but this change was driven almost entirely by an increase in digital participation in the arts. Live arts attendance remained relatively steady between 2007 and 2013.
  • In terms of quality, the report notes that the percentage of adults reporting their most recent arts experience as high quality increased from 57% in 2007 to 64% in 2012 (the most recent year available for this indicator).
  • The “financial output” group, including indicators such as economic impact, employment in the arts and entertainment, and arts organization expenditures, increased between 2007 and 2013. The largest increases were seen in the economic impact and employment indicators.

Based on these findings, the report concludes that “the arts are playing their part in feeding the economy and providing employment, while arts organisations are become increasingly entrepreneurial. The arts are no less popular, although audiences on average may be paying more.”



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