Writers and authors are better educated and earn more on average than the rest of the U.S. workforce, according to a study by the National Endowment for the Arts, based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce. The study, “Artists and Art Workers in the United States,” draws on information from the “American Community Survey (2005–2009)” and updates the NEA’s earlier study, “Artists in the Workforce, 2000–2005.”
To be counted as an artist, respondents must have identified a job in one of 11 provided categories as their “primary” job, meaning they spent the most hours worked in a given week in this artist occupation. From 2005 to 2009, the survey found an average of 197,768 who identified as writers and authors, making up almost 10% of the 2.1 million total artist workforce in the U.S. (Other artist categories were actors; announcers; architects; dancers and choreographers; designers; fine artists, art directors, and animators; musicians; other entertainers; photographers; producers and directors.)
Within the total number of writers and authors, the study showed that artists were both less likely than other workers to be of a minority race or ethnicity, and were also less likely to be foreign-born. So 13% of writers and authors were nonwhite and/or Hispanic, compared to 32% of the overall U.S. workforce; 7% of writers and authors were foreign-born (9% speaking a language other than English at home), compared to 15% of the overall U.S. workforce.
More likely to be found among writers and authors, however, were more female workers and more self-employed workers, as compared to the overall workforce: 57% of writers and authors were female, compared to 47% of the overall workforce; 44% of writers and authors were self-employed, compared to 10% of the overall workforce.
The study also tracked where book publishing employment is the most concentrated and found that Minnesota was the most dependent on book publishing for jobs. In Minneapolis, the concentration of employment in book publishing is nearly eight times the national average. New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey were the following three states with high concentrations of publishing employees. And while New York and California retain the highest number of artists in the U.S., on a per worker basis, several other states also surpass the national average. Writers and authors are particularly prominent in Oregon and Vermont, two states that exceed the U.S. average by 20% for concentration of artists in the workforce.
Writers and authors earned more than the national average among full-time workers. During the years in the survey, the median wage/salary of the U.S. workforce was $39,280; the median wage/salary for writers and authors was $44,792. This could be because writers tended to be better educated than the average U.S. worker: 84% of writers and authors held at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to just 32% of the overall U.S. workforce. The degree most commonly earned by writers and authors was in English language and literature.
The study found that artists worked in a wide variety of industries and job sectors, and writers and authors were no exception. Just 20% of writers worked in “information” industries such as the motion picture, video, and broadcasting industries or newspaper, book, or directory industries. The most concentrated industry category for writers and authors, however, was “performing arts, spectator sports, and independent artists,” employing 33% of the total.