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NEA Releases Report on Women Artists

posted by Christopher Howard — Dec 02, 2008

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has released a new study in its Research Note series that shows women are making gains in traditionally male artist occupations, but still earn less than male artists. Women Artists: 1990–2005 takes a closer look at female artist employment trends that were previously mentioned in the NEA report Artists in the Workforce: 1990–2005, published in May 2008.

Totaling almost 919,000 artists in 2005, women represented 46 percent of the artist labor force, comparable to their percentage of all civilian workers. The note reveals significant patterns in pay disparity, demographic, and educational trends, and women’s advancement in various art fields over the past fifteen years. This note draws on data from the US Census Bureau’s 2003–5 American Community Surveys, along with the 1990 and 2000 population censuses.

Among the key findings:

Female artists earn less than male artists. Women artists who work full-year, full-time earn $0.75 for every dollar made by men artists. Women workers in general earn $0.77 for every dollar earned by men.

  • Women’s pay disparity increases with age. In 2003–5, women artists aged 18 to 24 earned $0.95 for every $1 made by young men artists. This ratio fell to $0.67 for 45-to-54-year-olds. Similar pay gaps by age are found in the overall labor market
  • Pay gaps vary by occupation. Men and women had closer earnings parity in lower-paying performing arts occupations (such as musicians and dancers), where women earned an average of $0.92 for every dollar earned by men. The gap tended to be larger in nonperforming art occupations (such as designers and art directors), where women earned 72 percent of what men earn
  • Pay gaps vary by state. The pay disparity was smaller in ten states, such as New York and Arizona, where women made 80 percent or more of what men made. Women made less than 75 percent of what men made in twenty-seven states, including Virginia, Michigan, and North Dakota

Women make up just under half of all artists nationwide (46 percent), yet they are underrepresented in many artist professions. In 2003–5, nearly eight out of ten announcers and architects were men.

Women have achieved a greater presence in some artist occupations. By 2003–5, women made up 43 percent of all photographers and 22 percent of all architects—representing gains of 11 and 7 percent, respectively, since 1990.

Women artists are as likely to be married as female workers in general, but they are less likely to have children. In 2003–5, more than half of all women artists and all women workers were married. Yet only 29 percent of women artists had children under 18, almost six percentage points lower than for women workers in general.

Female artists cluster in low-population states. Women made up more than 55 percent of the artist labor force in Iowa, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Mississippi in 2003–5. They represent well below half of all artists in New York (45.8 percent) and in California (42.6 percent).