Arts aren’t just a nice frill.
Boosters say that all the time, but now they have some new research to argue that arts and culture are crucial to a city’s vitality and prosperity.
In an analysis in Economic Development Quarterly, researchers found that having major performing-arts groups is associated with attracting higher-paying “knowledge-class” jobs.
The researchers concluded that metro areas with three major performing-arts groups – ballets, operas and symphonies with annual budgets topping $2 million – had an average 2.2 percent increase between 2000 and 2010 in these jobs, also known as creative-class jobs. Metro areas with two performing-arts groups averaged 1.5 percent growth in these jobs, and those with one recorded a 1.1 percent increase.
The 118 metro areas with at least one of the big three arts groups added a total of 540,000 knowledge-class jobs (12 percent of all those created nationwide), resulting in $40 billion in additional wages over the decade, according to the study.
Because of its performing-arts groups, the Sacramento region added 3,200 knowledge jobs during the decade, producing $211 million a year in added wages by 2010, the study found.
So we should be really glad that Sacramento still has its own opera, philharmonic and ballet after they suffered mightily during the Great Recession. Well into the recovery, however, they’re still weakened and could use all the public and private support they can get. The Sacramento Opera and Philharmonic merged in 2013 to cut costs, but still had to scrap their 2014 fall seasons. Last spring, the Sacramento Ballet had to lay off dancers for the final three weeks of its season.
While it’s highly unlikely that the ballet, opera and symphony will get a big boost anytime soon from a sparkling new performing-arts center, they may get a spiffier Community Center Theater to help them sell more tickets. Maybe this new study will help them persuade City Hall to get that long-delayed renovation going,
Arts aficionados around the country will surely try to capitalize on the study as well. Arts Journal promoted the findings as “substantial evidence that performing-arts organizations add to both the growth of the knowledge class and to urban economies broadly.”
Not surprisingly, Richard Florida, an author who coined the phrase “creative class,” highlighted the study. “I’ve long argued that the arts can help cities attract talent, spur innovation and grow their economies,” he wrote for CityLab, an online publication of The Atlantic magazine.
But others warn about the pitfalls of such studies. Just because one thing – the presence of arts groups – is correlated with another – growth in knowledge jobs – that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the cause.
The researchers tried to account for other factors that might draw knowledge workers, such as the number of college graduates, weather and other amenities, and admit they didn’t look at the impact of tax incentives. And while they caution that “in the scheme of things, the number of new knowledge-class jobs attributable to professional performing-arts organizations is small,” they also say that winning those jobs “can have significant impacts on the metropolitan economy.”
The bottom line: Any high-paying jobs attracted by the arts can’t hurt.
By the numbers
The number of knowledge-class jobs attracted from 2000 to 2010, and annual income from those jobs by 2010, for selected California metro areas with at least one major performing-arts group:
- Los Angeles: 41,700 jobs, $3.36 billion
- San Francisco: 18,900 jobs, $1.34 billion
- San Diego: 10,300 jobs, $526 million
- San Jose: 8,900 jobs, $502 million
- Sacramento: 3,200 jobs, $211 million
- Santa Barbara: 1,000 jobs, $77 million
- Fresno: 900 jobs, $57 million
- Modesto: 500 jobs, $32 million
Source: Economic Development Quarterly