Who’s Supporting the Arts?

by Susan Mitchell

WHAT’S THE STATE of art today? Among educated Americans,
it’s looking pretty good. While 37 percent of all Americans
visited a museum in 1998, a whopping 71 percent of people
with graduate degrees made a trip that year, as did 66 percent
of people with bachelor’s degrees, according to the 1998 General
Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s National
Opinion Research Center. Classical music and dance also did
well among the well schooled.

Nearly half the people who hold graduate degrees and one-third
of those with bachelor’s degrees took in a classical music
or dance performance in 1998, compared with fewer than 15
percent of people with less education. Even better news for
anyone who runs an arts institution-the support goes beyond
buying tickets. More than one-quarter of college graduates
did volunteer work for arts organizations, according to the
survey, compared with only 16 percent of all Americans. College
graduates are more likely than other Americans to say the
government has an obligation to support the arts: 57 percent
of them say that arts organizations should get federal assistance
and about 70 percent say they should receive state and local aid.

By comparison, 45 percent of all Americans say the arts should
receive federal funds and 55 percent say they should get state
or local monies. The backing should grow as more Americans
spend time in the Ivory Tower. Today, one-quarter of people
aged 25 to 54 have a college degree, according to the Census
Bureau. Among Baby Boomers and younger generations, however,
the share with a sheepskin is likely to increase to 30 percent
or more, as people continue their education later in life.
In fact, the National Center for Education Statistics estimates
that college enrollment will increase by 12 percent by 2008.

The increase in college graduates and the concurrent rise
of art lovers will benefit more than just symphonies and museums.
Sales of art and music, tourism with an emphasis on arts and
culture, and companies with a good track record of support
for the arts should all reap the benefits. For more information
about the General Social Survey, contact the National Opinion
Research Center at the University of Chicago at (312) 753-7500.

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