A new report published by the Department of Arts and Culture and Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Business and Management of the Arts reveals disparities between earnings of L.A. County arts administrators that identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color and their white counterparts. The report also finds that entry-level arts staff, no matter their race, earned wages lower than the cost of living in L.A. County. This study further highlights the relationship between wages and the perceptions, lives and careers of arts workers, including education levels and the student debt incurred to get that education.
The report builds on a series of Arts and Culture studies aimed at building knowledge, equity and inclusion in the arts through data and research. It comes at a critical time as arts organizations emerge from the hardship of COVID-19 and begin to rebuild, rehire and, in some cases, reinvent themselves. It concludes with a series of recommendations that emerged from the findings to help arts organizations and funders address the challenges it brings to light.
Recent research has found that the creative workforce in Los Angeles County does not reflect the demographic makeup of the population; it is overwhelmingly female and white. Report authors Cobi Krieger of CBMArts and Bronwyn Mauldin, Arts and Culture’s director of research and evaluation, along with adjunct faculty at CBMArts, sought to explore the relationship between entry-level compensation and diversity, equity and inclusion in the nonprofit arts field. The questions that drove their project included whether pay scales acted as barriers to certain groups of people and if the arts field practices a compensation structure that reinforces the historical exclusion of people of color.
The arts administrators’ annual earnings from all sources was $36,847 – slightly higher than the L.A. County minimum wage of $31,200 but lower than the living wage of $40,248. Average annual earnings for entry-level arts administrators were $32,027 for BIPOC respondents and $43,437 for white respondents, a difference of $11,410, or 35%. No matter their education level, white respondents on average earned more than BIPOC respondents.
“What this report reveals on income disparities cutting along racial lines is not surprising,” said Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis, 1st District. “I believe, however, that we can use this knowledge to inform the future. We know that arts and culture play a critical role in the economic and social resiliency of Los Angeles County, and as we build our ecosystem back, we must build it back better – with equity and opportunity for all of our creative workers and arts administrators at all levels.”
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