Skip to main content

Women in Arts Earn $20,000 Less Than Men, Study Finds

Women who work in the arts earn nearly $20,000 less per year than their male counterparts, essentially the same wage gap across other fields in America, according to a study published in the December…

Women who work in the arts earn nearly $20,000 less per year than their male counterparts — essentially the same wage gap across other fields in America — according to a study published in the December issue of Social Currents. The study appears to quash the presumption that given the supposed liberal leanings of the arts, that its salaries would have parity among all workers. Nationally, women earn 79 cents for every dollar a man makes.

To gather the info, researchers used the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) to survey 33,801 individuals who have at least earned an arts degree. Of those surveyed, 7,680 worked as actors, writers, musicians, visual artists, dancers and designers in either the non-profit or for-profit worlds. Most respondents (around 16,000) had a degree but not longer work in the arts. The study, led by

Lehigh University sociologist Danielle J. Lindemann, compared the two groups.

“We did find evidence of this gender wage gap in the arts,” said Lindemann in an NPR interview on the topic. “We did find that women earned significantly less than men, even controlling for various factors like the amount of time they worked, what sector — was nonprofit or profit. Women are consistently earning less than men in the arts.”


According to the findings, men in the arts earn $63,061 per year, while women earn $43,177. But as Lindemann notes in the study, that gap is lessened (to around $13,000) when controlling for other factors — namely whether the arts organization is in the nonprofit sector or not. The study showed that women who work for an arts nonprofit make $12,000 less than a woman working at a for-profit arts org. Men feel a similar pinch, with nonprofit workers earning roughly $17,000 less than for-profit arts workers.

What the study didn’t find was any evidence of the so-called “motherhood penalty” document in other fields. “So the fact that women who become mothers, their wages decrease relative to women who are not mothers,” Lindemann noted. “But in the arts we really didn’t see that. We don’t find significant evidence of this motherhood penalty among female artists.”

Listen to the NPR segment: