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Kenneth Elpus Working Paper
Publication year: 2015

The purpose of this study was to understand (1) the national uptake rates of high school arts education coursework in the United States from 1982 to 2009, and (2) the effects of school-based arts education on later adult engagement with the arts. This study used high quality national data from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics to estimate enrollment percentages for high school arts courses for students in the graduating classes of 1982, 1987, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2004, 2005, and 2009. Data from the National Endowment for the Arts/U.S. Census Bureau 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts were used to estimate the effect of school-based arts education on the probability of later adult engagement with the arts as patron/consumer, donor/financial supporter, and performer or art maker.

Results from analyses on uptake rates suggest that an increasing proportion of students in the United States graduate high school with at least one course in the arts (80.49% as of the class of 2009, up from 68.2% in 1982), and persistence in the arts over multiple years is also on an upward trend. Results from analyses of the effect of arts education on later engagement in the arts suggest that arts education is strongly associated with later arts participation as patron/consumer, donor/financial supporter, andperformer/creator, even after controlling for respondent’s household income, educational attainment, parental educational attainment, sex, and race. If one aim of arts education is to engender a lifelong connection with the arts, the results of this study suggest that this arts education is achieving this aim for many of its alumni.