Read the Study on NEA Funding and Community Wealth

NCAR Study Evaluates Wealth Distribution in NEA Grant-Recipient Communities vs. Non-Recipient Communities

The National Center for Arts Research (NCAR) at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, today released findings from an independent research study designed to evaluate wealth distribution in communities with arts organizations that receive grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The study questions the claim from a U.S. House of Representatives Committee on the Budget report that NEA-funded programs “are generally enjoyed by people of higher-income levels, making them a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.” A white paper on the study is available at

To evaluate the relationship between NEA funding and community wealth, the study focused on whether or not NEA grant-making shows bias towards arts organizations in wealthier communities and whether or not NEA-funded activities primarily benefit the wealthy, based on attendance. The NCAR study had two main findings:

 NEA grants are not disproportionately awarded in wealthier communities; rather, funding is more often awarded to economically diverse communities with both a higher percentage of households that are wealthy and a higher percentage of households that are below the poverty line. In addition, there is no significant difference in median household income in communities with an NEA-funded organization and those without. This finding indicates that there is no bias in NEA grant-making either towards or against organizations on the basis of the median household income of the surrounding community.

 There is no relationship between arts attendance and the median household income of the local community. However, attendance increases with increases in the percentage of households below the poverty line and with increases in the percentage of households with incomes above $200,000.

“Because federal funding for the NEA is often called into question, it is important to be able to answer the question of who benefits from NEA grants from a statistically sound, data-driven perspective,” said Zannie Voss, director of NCAR. “Our analysis shows that the arts benefit Americans at all income levels, and that NEA funding of the arts is remarkably impartial to community wealth characteristics.”

To come to the first finding, the NCAR study revealed that there is no significant difference in median household income in communities with an NEA-funded organization and those without. NCAR also examined the distribution of income within communities and found that, on average, NEA grant-recipient communities are more economically diverse – with a higher percentage of household incomes both above $200,000 and below the poverty line – than those without NEA-funded organizations. The study also found that, although a greater amount of funding is given to more populous communities, the NEA dollars per capita actually increase as a community’s population decreases.

To arrive at the second finding, NCAR examined whether wealthier individuals are more likely to benefit from the arts than poorer individuals, with “benefit” defined as physical attendance at an arts organization. The analysis showed that as median household income in a community increases, local arts organizations do not experience an increase or a decrease in attendance. In fact, attendance increases in more economically diverse communities – when percentages of both wealthy households and households below the poverty line increase.

The Fiscal Year 2014 Omnibus Appropriations bill, signed into law by President Obama in January 2014, maintained funding for the NEA at $146 million, although the House budget proposed in March 2013 called for a 49% reduction in its funding.

“As an academic institution educating future artists, arts managers, and arts entrepreneurs, it is essential that we have an in-depth understanding of our industry,” said José Bowen, dean of the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. “We established NCAR to create this complete picture of the arts industry and to act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community. For the first time, we have the capability of looking at questions such as those raised by the House and providing statistically-supported answers.”

About NCAR

In 2012, the Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University launched the National Center for Arts Research (NCAR). The Center, the first of its kind in the nation, analyzes the largest database of arts research ever assembled, investigates important issues in arts management and patronage, and makes its findings available to arts leaders, funders, policymakers, researchers and the general public. The vision of NCAR is to act as a catalyst for the transformation and sustainability of the national arts and cultural community.

RELATED: The NCAR report's mission and vision

With data from the Cultural Data Project  (CDP) and other national and government sources such as the Theatre Communications Group, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Census Bureau and the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the National Center for Arts Research will create the most complete picture of the health of the arts sector in the U.S. The goal of the Center is to become the nation’s leading source of expertise on: 1) arts attendance and patronage, 2) understanding how managerial decisions, arts attendance and patronage affect one another, 3) the impact of the arts on communities across the U.S., and 4) the fiscal trends and fiscal stability of the arts in the U.S., and create an in-depth assessment of the industry that allows arts and cultural leaders to make more informed decisions and improve the health of their organizations.

The project’s indices and dashboard were created in partnership with IBM, TRG Arts and Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF). The Center also partnered with the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) to develop its mission, vision, and long-term strategies.

NCAR is led by Dr. Zannie Voss, chair and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in the Meadows School of the Arts and SMU Cox School of Business, and Dr. Glenn Voss, Endowed Professor of Marketing at Cox School of Business. Through this leadership, NCAR sources its cross-disciplinary academic expertise in the fields of arts management, marketing, and statistics from Meadows and Cox faculty.

More than a dozen visionary foundations and individual arts patrons have supported NCAR with financial investments, including the Communities Foundation of Texas, M. R. & Evelyn Hudson Foundation, Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, Jennifer and Peter Altabef, Marilyn Augur, Molly Byrne, Bess and Ted Enloe, Melissa and Trevor Fetter, Carol and Don Glendenning, Jeanne R. Johnson, Nancy Nasher, Nancy Perot, Bonnie Pitman, Caren Prothro and Donna Wilhelm.

For more information or to view the National Center for Arts Research’s inaugural report, please visit the NCAR website at

About the Meadows School of the Arts

The Meadows School of the Arts, formally established in 1969 at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, is one of the foremost arts education institutions in the United States. The Meadows School offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in advertising, art, art history, arts management and arts entrepreneurship, communication studies, creative computation, dance, film and media arts, journalism, music and theatre. The goal of the Meadows School of the Arts, as a comprehensive educational institution, is to prepare students to meet the demands of professional careers. The Meadows School is a leader in developing innovative outreach and community engagement programs, challenging its students to make a difference locally and globally by developing connections between art, entrepreneurship and change. The Meadows School of the Arts is also a convener for the arts in North Texas, serving as a catalyst for new collaborations and providing critical industry research. It shares with the Cox School of Business at SMU the dual-degree MA/MBA in arts management.  For more information, visit

About the Cox School of Business 

SMU’s Cox School of Business, originally established in 1920 and named in honor of benefactor Edwin L. Cox in 1978, offers a full range of undergraduate and graduate business education programs.  Among them:  BBA, Full-Time MBA, Professional MBA (PMBA), Executive MBA (EMBA), Master of Science in Accounting, Master of Science in Entrepreneurship, Master of Science in Finance, Master of Science in Management, Master of Science in Sport Management, and Executive Education. The school also offers a number of unique resources and activities for students, ranging from its Business Leadership Center (BLC), Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, Maguire Energy Institute, and Global Leadership Program to its Associate Board Executive Mentoring Program and an international alumni network with chapters in more than 20 countries.


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