Museums as Economic Engines, Part 2: Cultural Institutions Employ Two Times as Many Americans as the Sports Industry

A Mellon Foundation-supported study by the American Alliance of Museums and Oxford Economics highlights the need for a greater understanding of the full scope of how museums impact jobs.

Museums do more than enhance our knowledge, stimulate our creativity, and enrich our souls. They also provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and generate billions in tax revenues across the country. A new study, Museums as Economic Engines: A National Report, conducted by the American Alliance of Museums and Oxford Economics with funding from the Mellon Foundation, demonstrates the impact of these cultural institutions. In part one of this series, we examined museums’ contributions to the GDP; now let’s look at their impact on jobs.

From curators, conservators, and educators to administrators, scientists, technologists, and security guards, museums employ 372,100 people across the United States.

Blog Fig 6.JPGThis graph shows the different industries that are positively impacted by museums. For every job created in the museum sector, an additional job is created in another segment of the US labor market.

Museum employment statistics highlight substantive national impacts through what economists call “multipliers.” These are the additional benefits that the entire economy draws from a specific sector. Museums as Economic Engines reports that the economic activity of the museum sector supports 726,200 jobs throughout the US--more than double that of the professional sports industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Divide that number by the number of direct museum jobs (372,100) for a jobs multiplier of 2.0. Simply put, for every job created in the museum sector, an additional job is created somewhere else in the US labor market.

The Mellon Foundation chose to support this research in part to give legislators, policymakers, funders, trustees, and the general public more accurate information about the value of museums in our communities. Direct job creation is important, but museum employment data has significantly expanded the findings that economic studies typically capture. For example, Museums as Economic Engines also found that museums engage over three million volunteers who contribute more than a million hours of service every week. That value, in terms of connections made, skills gained, and communities enriched, is priceless.