Local Arts Index (LAI), United States, 2009-2015 (ICPSR 36984)

Version Date: Mar 2, 2018 View help for published

Principal Investigator(s): View help for Principal Investigator(s)
Roland J. Kushner, Muhlenberg College; Randy Cohen, Americans for the Arts (Organization)


Version V1

The Local Arts Index was developed in response to an interest in "scaling-down" the National Arts Index (NAI) to the community level and to the growing demand for comparative information on arts at the community level. The LAI was developed in partnership with arts leadership organizations in over 100 communities and is comprised of a variety of indicators to understand who we are as a community and how that manifests itself through cultural activities and participation. Indicators are a systematic data collection initiative that is conducted regularly over time. The LAI compresses many arts indicators into one number that is calculated the same way and at regular time intervals, making it easy to compare performance between time periods.

The LAI collected county level data such as nonprofit arts revenue and expenditures, creative businesses and nonprofit arts organizations per 100,000 residents, arts share of businesses, employees, establishments, and payroll, estimated expenditures on arts equipment, number of visual and performing arts degrees, and adult population attending arts and culture activities. Demographic information includes median measures of age, household income, and year housing was built, as well as population density, and population share that was over 65, non-English speakers, and non-white.

Kushner, Roland J., and Cohen, Randy. Local Arts Index (LAI), United States, 2009-2015. Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2018-03-02. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR36984.v1

Export Citation:

  • RIS (generic format for RefWorks, EndNote, etc.)
  • EndNote
Kresge Foundation, Paul Allen G. Family Foundation, The Rhode Island Foundation, The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation


Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research

2009 -- 2015
2011 -- 2015
For more information on the Local Arts Index, please visit the Local Arts Index website.

The purpose of the Local Arts Index (LAI) is to provide a set of measures to understand the breadth, depth and character of the cultural life of a community, as well as provide a framework for relating arts and culture to community priorities and aspirations.

The P.I.s used the county as the unit of analysis; the 2010 Census lists 3,143 counties or equivalents in the 50 states plus the District of Columbia. To measure a wide range of local arts and culture activity, the P.I.s gathered several hundred micro-level, specific measures of arts activity, resources, participation, and character, from which a smaller number of useful county-level indicators of arts and culture were produced. The P.I.s set each of the indicators in a conceptual framework, the Community Arts Vitality Model. The secondary data sources provide information for varying numbers of counties. Typically, there is ample data to describe urban counties, less for rural counties. The indicators span multiple years, and almost all are from 2011 or later.

Secondary data was obtained from over 25 different sources including: the federal government; private membership organizations, professional societies, and trade groups; research institutions; and commercial data providers. Criteria for including a particular data point in the Local Arts Index are:

  • The indicator has at its core a meaningful measurement of arts and culture activity
  • The data are measured at the county level
  • The data are produced annually by a reputable organization
  • The data are statistically valid, even if based on sample
  • Future years of data are expected to be available for use in the Index
  • The data are affordable within project budget constraints

Time Series: Discrete

Counties within the United States.


Americans for the Arts

National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Bureau of the Census

Chorus America

Bureau of Labor Statistics

League of Historic American Theatres

National Endowment for the Arts

Internal Revenue Service

Institute for Museum and Library Science

American Association for State and Local History

National Dance Educators Organization

Association of American Museums

National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts

National Center for Education Statistics

Opera America

National Art Education Association

Theatre Communications Group

Bureau of Economic Analysis

Scarborough Research

Dun and Bradstreet

National Parks Service

National Office for Arts Accreditation

National Association for Music Education

League of American Orchestras


National Center for Charitable Statistics at the Urban Institute

Educational Theatre Association

administrative records data

This study has 3146 cases and 147 variables. Variables include county-level information on adult cultural participation, nonprofit arts expenditures, per capita arts expenditures, nonprofit art program revenues, government art grants per capita, arts-related establishments per 100,000 residents, weight of arts sector in community's business population, grant success rate, institutional or entrepreneurial factor of cultural character, number of historic places per 100,000 residents, and professional arts training. Demographic information includes bureau of economic analysis region, population density, median age, population share over 65, population share that are non-English speakers, population share that is non-white, median year housing built, population share with a bachelor's degree, household income, population share commuting to work, per capita income, and total population.



2018-03-02 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Created online analysis version with question text.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.

The data are not weighted.



  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

Free and easy access to data on the arts and on the arts' value and impact for individuals and communities