Map & Data Resources

Government support for arts down dramatically over time

Map & Data Resources | By Samantha Cook |

March 27, 2013 — Government support for the arts has dropped far more precipitously than is generally realized. If one only examines raw funding numbers, one gets a misleading impression. Even when adjusting for inflation, the full picture of change over time does not become apparent. Only when one adjusts both for inflation and for population growth does one see the extent of change over time.

Government per capita support has dropped 33.69 percent since 1983. Indeed, from peak per capita support in 1990, government support in 2011 had dropped by 48.37 percent. Private support, by contrast, was in per capita terms more than double the 1983 level as of 2011 (the peak was in 2007, when private support was 291.51 percent of its 1983 level). Whereas government support constituted 28.68 percent of total funding in 1983, it constituted only 7.94 percent in 2011, reflecting both the drop in government funding  and the rise in private funding.

We were able to derive this information by gathering data on appropriations to the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as for state and local arts agencies. We also collected data for “private” support to “arts, culture, and humanities” organizations, as defined by the “National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities.” We included in the “private” category support from corporations, foundations, bequests, and individual donations. We then adjusted for inflation to 2013 dollars and calculated per capita funding of both public and private funding to account for changes in population.

Follow the instructions in the visualization below and click to get overall spending in each category for each year, percentage of total funding represented by each category for each year, and the percentage change in per capita spending for any year as compared with the 1983 start year.

Sources: National Endowment for the Arts (for NEA appropriations), National Assembly of States Arts Agencies (for state arts agency funding), Americans for the Arts (for local arts agency funding), and “Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy 2012,” published by Giving USA Foundation (for private support).

Caution: Our look at public and private funding is not purely an apples-to-apples comparison. The types of organizations that are the recipients of private support are broader than those for public. For example, support for science and technology museums is included only on the private funding side. Nevertheless, the types for each category of support (public and private) remain constant over the period being examined.



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