NASAA’s Creative Economy State Profiles
The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), recently released a new online tool called “Creative Economy State Profiles.” The tool is based on the Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account (ACPSA) work that was executed several years ago by the NEA and the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). The tool makes available state-level reports on creative economy data. In addition, the state-profile data offer trending data by state related to value added, compensation, and jobs. Previously, these data had only been available at the national level.
The report identifies $764 billion in value that was added to the US Gross Domestic Product by arts-related economic activity. “Value added” is an industry’s gross output minus intermediate inputs that are consumed while making products. In addition, the data presented indicate that the arts and culture industry grew in the calendar year 2015 at the rate of 4.9%. At first glance, the numbers reported in the Creative Economy State Profiles tool are impressive; however, they are limited in their applicability to real-world research.
Many CVSuite™ data users have contacted our team and asked how the data in NASAA’s State Profiles tool are similar to the data and the analysis features found in the Creative Vitality™ Suite. We find that the CVSuite has many advantages over NASAA’s State Profiles tool. Following is a summary of the key CVSuite advantages:
- Creation of Custom Study Areas by Geography: The CVSuite is an online tool that provides creative labor market data throughout the United States. These data are available at the ZIP Code, county, metropolitan statistical area (MSA), state, and national levels. The NASAA tool is currently only available to report data at the national and state levels. As a result, it greatly limits the ability of users to explore and compare the creative economies in sub-state geographic areas.
- Currency of Data: Data in the CVSuite are updated twice annually. The data currently available in the tool are data from 2016. Those data will be updated and refined in May 2018. Data for 2017 will be inserted into the system in October 2018, and the initial 2017 data will be updated and refined in May 2019. The latest data made available by the NASAA tool are from 2015. Most economic development work is not conducted using old data.
- Flexibility in Code Selection: The creative occupations and industry codes offered in the CVSuite tool are broad in scope and include both for-profit and nonprofit jobs. The tool allows users to select the codes they wish to use and make selections that are congruent with the state’s creative economy definition or local economic development interests. The NASAA tool does not offer users the ability to select codes in a way that makes reports congruent with local and state practice. Doing so provides the arts community with a much more powerful argument for impact.
- Deeper Dives Into the Data: CVSuite users who wish to explore data related to creative occupations and creative industry jobs can dive more deeply into these data without leaving the CVSuite site. The site itself contains detailed data on wages; location quotients related to jobs; and the demographics of those jobs, including race, ethnicity, and age. The NASAA online tool does not make these disaggregated data available on the site. To acquire such detailed information, users of the NASAA tool need to either request the data from NASAA or access the data through the National Archive of Data on Arts and Culture, which can be challenging.
- Inclusion of an Index Tool: The CVSuite includes the Creative Vitality Index tool, which provides a measure of the relative vitality of a geographic region’s creative sector. This index can be used to compare one MSA with another MSA, one county to another county, one state to another state, and even a cluster of ZIP Codes to any other cluster of ZIP Codes. Users can also compare creative vitality among peer regions. The NASAA tool does not have this capability.
Though the CVSuite and the NASAA online data tools differ significantly in their approaches to managing and presenting data, both have made a contribution to understanding the role the arts play in the economy of the United States. The CVSuite, however, excels in that it provides arts administrators and researchers with more current and more frequently updated data. In addition, it enables multiple approaches to analyze creative economy data. Such flexibility in an analysis is important to establish credible relationships with decision makers, who prefer up-to-date, high-quality data. These leaders also prefer to analyze their areas using the creative economy definition they have developed rather than use an inflexible, prepackaged definition that does not reflect their concept of what comprises the creative economy.
The Nexus Between Data and Public Sector Arts Agencies
We want to close with two final words of caution. One is that the BEA-based NASAA report presents a large number as the economic value of arts and culture to the US gross domestic product (GDP). We would caution that “arts and culture” are not generally defined in the same way as is the term “creative economy.” Indeed, while the BEA took pains to examine the degree to which arts and culture play a role in overall creative economy activities, the numbers they have arrived at are quite large and tend to be easily dismissed because they are wide-ranging and beyond the field of belief of most of the target audience. Also, we caution that the NASAA data need to be carefully used so as to not imply that there is a nexus between a state arts agency or the NEA and all creative activities. For example, in the national report, film is estimated to have a value adding $99 billion of $764 billion. When this is presented under the term “creative economy,” it is believable; however, when a public sector arts agency makes an actual or implied claim to have stimulated this economic activity, it is not believable. Film production is a significant activity in the overall creative economy; however, public sector arts agencies have very little to do with the size and scope of that industry.
If you have questions about the CVSuite and how it differs from the new NASAA tool, please contact the CVSuite team at firstname.lastname@example.org.