Age and Arts Participation: A Case against Demographic Destiny—2011

Document Type

Government Publication




The author used the National Endowment for the Arts' 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts and previous versions of the survey to examine changes in the role of age and cohort in arts participation since 1982. The study concluded that age and cohort had a relatively minor effect on arts participation ranging from live attendance at events to personal participation as well as literary reading and media-based participation. In short, despite concern about the graying of arts audiences, the findings suggest that age is not destiny. The ability of established or emerging arts groups to attract audiences will have less to do with the age distribution of the population than with their ability to connect to the creative aspirations of potential participants.


This monograph was commissioned in 2009 by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as part of a research series based on the 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. The publication, NEA Research Report #53 (February 2011), is available for free on the NEA website at



Date Posted: 19 April 2017