Measuring Chicago's (Artistically) Creative Economy

May, 2014

This study measures the creative industries and workers of Chicago and eight peer cities. It is meant to provide an objective benchmark for Chicago as it undertakes the goals articulated in the Chicago Cultural Plan 2012 of attracting and retaining creative professionals and measuring the size and strength of the cultural sector. The study was authored by Jennifer Novak-Leonard, and was supported in part by Arts Alliance Illinois and The Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.

Quick facts:

  • Creative workers, a group which includes professionals such as scientists and programmers as well as artists, make up almost 21% of Chicago's civilian labor force, which approximates the portion of creative workers in the US labor force.
  • However, if one looks at artists specifically, Chicago rises above the national baseline: the portion of Chicago's labor force made up of artists is 1.6 times that of the US.
  • An estimated 63,008 artists work in Chicago. Designers represent the largest share of the artist workforce in Chicago, at 36.3 percent.
  • Fifty-seven percent of Chicago's artist labor force is employed in the for-profit sector. Among the cities studied, only Houston and Philadelphia employ barely larger proportions of their artist labor force in the for-profit sector.
  • Chicago's artist workforce is less diverse than its total population in terms of race and ethnicity. Seventy-four percent of Chicago's artist workforce is White (non-Hispanic), compared with a total population that is 32 percent White (non-Hispanic).
  • Among Chicago artists, writers/authors and architects are most highly concentrated compared to the U.S. as a whole. Chicago also has higher concentrations of designers, musicians, photographers, actors, and dancers compared to the national baseline.

Press coverage

Press release: New Study Confirms Chicago as Hub for Creative Professionals

WBEZ: Chicago excels at employing creative workers

Sun-Times: It's not your imagination: Chicago is exploding with art

Urban Network: Measuring the "Creative Class" in Eight Cities

Crain's Cleveland: Cultural Policy Center report shows that the state of Cleveland's 'creative economy' exceeds national level

Crain's Chicago Business: Which artists are making bank (infographic)

Download the Report