SMU DataArts - Cultural Data Profile


Study Shows Staff and Board Members of Smaller Cultural Organizations in Los Angeles are Happier

The Los Angeles County Workforce Demographics Study, 2019

Arts, culture, arts education, and creativity are major contributors to Los Angeles County residents’ quality of life, and the arts and culture sector is an important part of LA County’s local economy. This study, in its third iteration, was undertaken by the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture to better understand the demographic makeup of the workforce of the arts and culture sector. This information can be a key tool to help ensure that every resident of LA County has access to all opportunities offered by the arts and culture sector.

The SMU DataArts Workforce Demographics study collected data from individuals who work or volunteer for LA County arts and culture organizations, surveying five demographic characteristics: 1) Heritage (race, ethnicity, and nation of origin); 2) Age; 3) Gender; 4) Sexual Orientation; and 5) Disability. Additionally, this study collected data regarding staff and board member workplace perceptions.

In addition to the demographic characteristics mentioned above, this study also asked respondents questions regarding their perceptions of working at their LA County organization. These questions probed areas such as workplace well-being, support for risk-taking, psychological support, and happiness of staff and board members.

Key Findings

Overall, individuals that identify as female hold a greater proportion of the cultural workforce when compared to the general population. 

LGBTQ individuals find more work in the arts.

Based on our survey, 18% of respondents that identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or other make up the arts and cultural workforce in Los Angeles - that's nearly 4 times as much as the general population. 

The percentage of individuals with disabilities working in the arts closely matches the percentage of those in the general population of Los Angeles County. 

When viewed by organizational role, independent contractors reported the largest incidence of having a disability, at 11%, as compared to board members who reported the smallest incidence of a disability at 5%.

74% of Los Angeles County residents identify as non-white, but only about 40% make up the cultural workforce. 

Younger generations tend to be more racially diverse. 

Of the survey respondents, 42% of age group 15-34 identified as “White (non-Hispanic)” and about 57% non-White. About 80% of ages 65 and older responded as “White (non-Hispanic).”

12% of the cultural workforce in Los Angeles stated they were not born in the U.S.

There are a total of 62 different countries that respondents identified as their country of origin. 

Staff and board members from organizations with budgets under $500,000 scored more positively than the overall scores.

People who believe their job has meaning and a broader purpose are more likely to work harder, take on challenging or unpopular tasks, and collaborate effectively. Research repeatedly shows that people deliver their best effort and ideas when they feel they are part of something larger than the pursuit of a paycheck. And when it comes to health, scoring high on both types of well-being - hedonic and 'eudemonic' happiness, which refers to the meaning you feel in life - is great. But many people do not score high on both. Four independent studies have revealed that it is far better for our immune systems when we score high on purposeful happiness than hedonic happiness.

As an additional component of well-being, psychological safety is the degree to which staff and board members feel comfortable taking interpersonal risks. Research shows that achieving high performance requires having the confidence to take risks, especially in a knowledge-intensive world. When an organization minimizes the fear people feel on the job, performance - at both the organizational and the team level - is maximized.


Workplace Well-Being

These scores are composed of responses to three statements:

1. Your life has a sense of direction and meaning to it.

2. You have something to contribute to society.

3. (You feel) Challenged to become a better person.


Scores are shown from 0-4 with 4 being the most positive.

When comparing staff and board members on measures of well-being, board members tend to have more positive scores. Board members scored 3.4 on overall well-being, while supervisor staff and other staff scored 3.2 overall. 


These scores are composed of responses to two statements:

1. (You feel) Satisfied.

2. (You feel) Happy.


Scores are shown from 0-4 with 4 being the most positive.

When analyzing responses based on one's role, board members showed significantly higher scores for happiness than both supervisory staff and other staff. Additionally, when comparing scores of happiness based on race/ethnicity, respondents selecting "some other race" scored significantly higher than all other race categories. All other scores by respondent race/ethnicity show little to no variation. 


This study is important not only for understanding the current demographic makeup of the arts and culture workforce in LA County but also for beginning to understand perceptions around what it is like to work in this sector. As organizations take stock of the diversity of their workforce to ensure all residents have equal access to opportunities, they should also be aware of staff and board well-being and psychological safety. Decision-makers and general readers alike can use the data found in this report to better understand the LA County arts and culture workforce, develop and advocate for policy change, and start conversations to make the sector more equitable and representative of the broader LA County community.


The findings presented in this report are based on responses from 2,412 individuals representing 2,485 affiliations at 167 arts and cultural organizations in LA County conducted from February – May 2019. 

Read the Full Report

Putting Data to Work

This study was undertaken by the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture to better understand the demographic makeup of the workforce of the arts and culture sector. This report is part of the department’s continued efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts through LA County’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative (CEII).

Learn More

Get Started On Your Study

Workforce Demographics Survey Pricing