Museums play a critical role in the civic life of every district in America. While many may think of museums as major institutions of art and science in large cities, museums come in many sizes, types, and locations. They include botanic gardens, children’s museums, historic houses and sites, military and maritime museums, zoos, and aquariums. These places not only enrich our individual lives and communities: they also provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and generate billions of dollars in economic impact across the country. To find out more about the monetary impact of these institutions, the Mellon Foundation supported a new study by the American Alliance of Museums and Oxford Economics, Museums as Economic Engines: A National Report.
Among other components the study examined the gross value added (GVA) of museums for each state. Economists use GVA to determine a particular industry’s contributions to the GDP. Museums as Economic Engines reports that the impact of the museum economy is strongest in the Mideast states ($10.7 billion), followed closely by the Southeast region ($9.9 billion), and the Far West region ($9.3 billion). On an individual state level, the impact of the museum sector on GVA is most pronounced in California, New York, Texas, Illinois, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Ohio. Even Vermont, which feels the smallest impact from the museum economy, saw almost $77 million in GVA in 2016.
Perhaps more interesting than the overall GVA impact is the Location Quotient (LQ). LQ is an indicator of how much a state’s economy relies on a particular industry. The states with the highest LQs for the museum sector include the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Alaska, Wyoming, and Rhode Island. In smaller states, the economic impact of museums matters even more.
With the federal funding for arts and education that many museums rely on under threat, Museums as Economic Engines, a first-of-its-kind study of the economic impact of the museum sector, can serve as a tool to increase the public’s understanding of how museums contribute to both our cultural lives and the economy.