Arts Problems

The arts graduates are fine, according to a survey released yesterday by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project. According to the media release:

Findings from a national study released this week show that Americans with arts degrees are generally satisfied with their educational and career experiences. Only 4% of SNAAP respondents report being unemployed and looking for work – less than half the national rate of 8.9%. [Some] 84% of employed alumni agree that their current primary job reflects their personalities, interests and values, whether their work is in the arts or other fields. Only 3% of all currently-working arts graduates are “very dissatisfied” with their primary job.

This is interesting but a little flimsy, in part because it didn’t address somewhat crucial information about salaries and benefits. It indicated, for instance, that half of all Film/TV/Video artists surveyed earned more than $50,000 in 2010, but it neglected to indicate the average salary of all alumni surveyed or what percent of them had jobs with health care.

There also appears be something of a survey bias here. The study was an online form distributed to all alumni. While the study indicates a “the average institutional response rate was over 20 percent” the report also indicated that completion time for the survey was 20 to 30 minutes. It seems to me those most likely to actually return the survey are probably those artists employed in good jobs.

The woman with a degree in painting who works at Caribou Coffee and does some gallery work in her spare time; she’s probably not so interested in returning the survey. This is the one who lives in an apartment with her boyfriend that he sublets from the mother of a guy in his band, the sort of young arts graduate young people might actually know; she’s not too excited to spend 30 minutes filling out a questionnaire about her life satisfaction. She’s also probably going to be having a tough time paying her student loans.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer