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Reuters/Leonhard Foeger
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A decade after the financial crisis, the performing arts are making a comeback

By Thu-Huong Ha & Dan Kopf

It’s been 10 years since the global financial crisis, and Americans are slowly reaching for their opera glasses again. Newly released data from the US National Endowment for the Arts shows that attendance at arts performances is back up after a recession-led decline.

Though attendance rates across music, theater, dance, and fine arts had fallen slowly between 1992 and 2002, they dropped steeply from 2002 to 2008. But between 2012 and 2017, the most recent survey year, attendance across all categories except classical music was up. Most were still below 2002 levels though.

Here are the raw numbers of people who attended different types of events:

Share of Americans attending different types of performing arts

Year2002200820122017
Art museums/galleries26.5%22.7%21%23.7%
Musicals17.1%16.7%15.2%16.5%
Plays12.3%9.4%8.3%9.4%
Classical11.6%9.3%8.8%8.6%
Jazz10.8%7.8%8.1%8.6%
Dance6.3%5.2%5.6%6.3%
Ballet3.9%2.9%2.7%3.1%
Opera3.2%2.1%2.1%2.2%

The survey is issued in partnership with the US Census Bureau, and has been conducted roughly every five years since 2002. US adults are asked if they have participated in the activities at least once in the past year. Correlation isn’t causation, of course, and recovery from the recession is likely one of a few factors contributing to the uptick in Americans’ interest in the arts.