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Artistic education matters: survival in the arts occupations


The literature of cultural economics generally finds that an artistic education has no significant impact on artists’ income and careers in the arts. In artists’ labor markets, indefinable features such as talent and artistic creativity apparently contribute more to success or higher rates of payment than education and training. In this article, we will readdress this question by looking at the artists’ survival in the arts occupations. We find it reasonable to expect than an artistic education can have a significant impact on artists’ careers because of the importance of technical skills, networks and signaling effects. We analyze the question by using a unique longitudinal dataset for five different groups of artists in Denmark, using the Cox model to apply survival functions and semi-parametric analysis. The results show, among other things, that an artistic education has a significant impact on artists’ careers in the arts, and we find important industry differences.

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  1. For further information on the specific variables see

  2. For comparison, currently there are 5.6 mill. inhabitants in Denmark.

  3. It is worth noting that decorators and commercial designers have their own job category (ISCO code 3471) in Statistics Denmark, and they have not been included in the analysis.

  4. We can get an impression of the bias by looking at our full sample of about 45.000 individuals (before regression). We can calculate the number of individuals with an interrupted artistic career in the same year. As an example, 1300 individuals have an artistic career that start before 2002 and continue from 2003, but is interrupted in 2002, where they do not work as artists (they might have a job in another occupation). We can make the same calculation for all the years in our sample, and it turns out, that the maximum number for one year is about 4300, and the minimum number is about 1300. Based on these calculations, we can assume the number of individuals with interrupted career in 1996, who returned in 1997, is between 1300 and 4300. Therefore, we expect the bias to be small.

  5. Statistics Denmark changed the definition of the group of visual artists during the studied period, with a small impact on the number of artists in the group and therefore also on the survival function, which can be seen in the decrease in visual artists between years 4 and 5.

  6. Age is not included in quadratic form, since it does not have a quadric distribution. The career length across age is randomly distributed—with a small tendency toward shorter career length for the youngest individuals.


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Correspondence to Trine Bille.

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Bille, T., Jensen, S. Artistic education matters: survival in the arts occupations. J Cult Econ 42, 23–43 (2018).

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