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Artists' Careers and Their Labor Markets

Listed author(s):
  • Alper, Neil O.
  • Wassall, Gregory H.
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    This chapter is a continuation of ongoing work by economists and others on artists' labor markets and careers. It highlights the use of quasi-panel data obtained from census data to examine the employment and earnings of artists while comparing them to all the other professional and technical workers. It also provides a glimpse into what can be learned about artists' careers from true panel data. Quasi-panels from the seven most recent US censuses (1940-2000) provide a reasonably consistent set of findings in each census year. Artists are found to work fewer hours, suffer higher unemployment and earn less than members of the reference group. Over the sixty year period, disparities in unemployment and annual hours worked are found to shrink somewhat, but disparities in earnings do not. Artists earned less across all years even when only members working full-time year-round of each group are compared. The earnings of artists are found to display greater variability than those of other professional and technical workers. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 is used to examine almost twenty years in the artists' lives and provides some insights into their careers. It suggests that many people participate in the artistic labor market, but that few succeed to the point that enables them to develop a career in the arts. In part due to their relatively high educational levels, artists are found to be able to transition from forays into arts occupations to jobs in professional and managerial occupations, not into service occupations as artist `mythology' might suggest. We find that when the artists are young and struggling to make it they do work in various service occupations that tend to provide greater work schedule flexibility.

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    This chapter was published in:
  • V.A. Ginsburgh & D. Throsby (ed.), 2006. "Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture," Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture, Elsevier, edition 1, volume 1, number 1.
  • This item is provided by Elsevier in its series Handbook of the Economics of Art and Culture with number 1-23.
    Handle: RePEc:eee:artchp:1-23
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