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A new study by the US Department of Labour has found that people currently in the most creative professions, including Designers, Musicians and Artists, came predominantly from richer parents.
The people in these creative professions were by far and away the most likely to be earning significantly less than their parents earned, usually no more than Janitors, Maids or Waiters. This study showed that therefore these creative professionals were experiencing the biggest drop in income, and by extension living standards, between what they were used to as children and how they would live as adults.
The study by the US Department of Labour (NLSY72) and analysed by the good people over at NPR tracked over 12,000 individuals and their household income (inflation adjusted), from 1979 when they were predominantly teenagers living with parents to 2010 when they were adults and gainfully employed.
What I find fascinating is the insight this information sheds on the legend of the struggling artist, who came from humble beginnings full of hardship. Now don’t get me wrong, those creative professionals from poorer backgrounds do definitely exist, but the evidence suggests that the vast majority of designers, artists and musicians nowadays actually came from very well-off families. In fact, most of them came from families who had a higher income than those who ended up becoming doctors (see the graph above).
So what does all of this information mean? There are two main discussion points which I believe need to be raised:
1. Is something preventing children from lower-incomes pursuing a life in the creative professions?
While it’s important to remember that creativity is a part of almost all businesses and professions, the ‘Creative Professions’ described in this study are predominantly artistic. And interest in the arts has been shown to develop throughout a child’s time at school. Their affinity towards considering a career in the arts will therefore be affected by their access to it, as well as the perception of its value.
There is a relationship between the amount of money available and the number / quality of art programmes, both in schools and in communities. Every year we hear about funding for art programmes being cut further as budgets get tighter. And richer / private schools often have much higher investment in their arts programmes than publicly-funded schools, with everything from their own performance halls to regular student art exhibits. So it is a fact that children from higher-income families who go to more expensive schools will be more surrounded in the art subjects.