Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies - A Program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Definition of Terms

Definition of "Artists"

National employment statistics for artist occupations are obtained from two sources -- the decennial U.S. Census and the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey (CPS). Among the hundreds of occupational categories for which data are collected by these agencies are eleven that relate to the arts:

  • Actors & directors
  • Announcers
  • Architects
  • Authors
  • Dancers
  • Designers
  • Musicians/composers
  • Painters, sculptors, craft artists
  • Photographers
  • Teachers of art/drama/music
  • Other artists, not elsewhere classified

Periodically, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) issues reports on artist employment based on these data. Although the artist employment totals reported by the NEA are based on these 11 categories, they do not constitute an "NEA definition of artists." Rather, the NEA provides data for all eleven categories so that users who prefer to define "artists" in particular ways may combine individual categories in ways that are most relevant to their needs.

Other terms

Employment data derived from the Current Population Survey are compiled using the following definitions (according to NEA Research Division Note #80, May 2002 []):

"Employed" persons are those who, during the reference week of the survey, did any work as paid employees, working in their own business, profession, or on their own farm, or who worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a family member. Each employed person is counted only once, even if he or she holds more than one job. Multiple jobholders are counted in the job at which they worked the greatest number of hours during the reference week.

The "unemployed" are defined as persons who had no employment during the reference week, were available for work, except for temporary illness, and had made specific efforts to find employment some time during the four week period ending with the reference week.

The "labor force" comprises all persons classified as employed or unemployed, and the "unemployment rate" is the number of unemployed as a percent of the labor force.


Princeton University Home Tel: (609) 258-5180; E-mail: