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New National Data Reveals the Economic Impact of Museums Is More than Double Previous Estimates

February 16, 2018
In The News

The American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the only organization representing the entire scope of the museum community, today released two groundbreaking reports revealing indisputable evidence that museums contribute more to the United States economy than previously thought and have widespread public support that transcends political affiliations and geographic locations.

Armed with the two new reports and a wealth of data, on February 27 hundreds of museum professionals will visit with members of Congress and their staff to ask them to support funding for vital federal agencies and tax incentives for charitable donations. The Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal announced by President Trump yesterday calls for the elimination of multiple agencies that support the arts and humanities.

“Never before in the 112-year history of the Alliance have we possessed such comprehensive and statistically robust studies to support what we’ve always known,” said Alliance President and CEO Laura Lott. “Our legislators, policymakers, funders, and trustees can be confident in the fact that museums are important economic engines that support jobs and bring revenue to their local communities. In addition, our studies show that the American public is overwhelmingly supportive of museums in general, and specifically supports maintaining or increasing their federal funding.”

Two Reports Reinforce the Value of Museums

The first study, Museums as Economic Engines, reveals that museums support 726,000 jobs in the United States, and directly employ 372,100 people, more than double that of the professional sports industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The study, conducted by Oxford Economics with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, shows that for every $100 of economic activity created by museums, an additional $220 is created in other sectors of the US economy as a result of supply chain and employee expenditure impacts. These impacts mean that museums contribute approximately $50 billion to the US economy each year, a number that’s more than twice previous estimates.

The report is also the first to show that US museums generate more than $12 billion per year in tax revenue to federal, state, and local governments. The museum field’s largest economic impact is on the leisure and hospitality industry (approximately $17 billion), but it also generates approximately $12 billion in the financial activities sector and approximately $3 billion each in the education/health services and manufacturing sectors.

Museums provide important economic impacts to every part of the nation. The top 10 states driving this impact are geographically diverse and account for 57 percent of the gross value added to the national economy. States with the highest economic impact from the museum sector included California ($6.6 billion), New York ($5.4 billion), and Texas ($3.9 billion). However, those that rely most heavily on museums due to their relatively higher concentration include the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Wyoming, and Alaska.

The second report, Museums & Public Opinion, examines the opinions of Americans concerning museums, their educational and economic value, as well as their thoughts about federal funding and support for museums in their community. Conducted jointly by AAM and Wilkening Consulting, the study was fielded by the market research experts at Ipsos and polled more than 2,000 Americans. The survey results overwhelmingly demonstrate the high degree to which Americans believe in and support their museums, regardless of political affiliation, geographic location, and whether they visit museums or not:

  •     97 percent believe that museums provide valuable educational experiences to their communities
  •     89 percent recognize the important economic contributions and jobs that museums bring
  •     96 percent would approve of elected officials who act to support museums including acting to maintain or increase federal funding.


“The data speaks clearly: whether urban or rural, conservative or liberal, or a museum-goer or not, Americans treasure the museums in their communities and want elected officials to support them,” Lott said.

Findings from the two reports will be discussed by leaders from the Alliance and its research partners February 26 at Museums Advocacy Day in Washington, DC and May 7 at the Alliance’s Annual Meeting & Museum Expo in Phoenix.

Congressional Honorees

During Museums Advocacy Day, the Alliance will present awards to legislators who have demonstrated exemplary support for the nation's museums:


  •     Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) used her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to advocate for funding for key federal agencies. She is also an original cosponsor of legislation that would reauthorize the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  •     Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) is a co-founder of the Congressional STEAM Caucus, and a leader in seeking funding that will help school districts provide a well-rounded education.


The 2018 Museums Advocacy Day is made possible with generous support from Blackbaud and nearly 50 national, regional, and state partner organizations.

More details are available at, and you can follow the event on Twitter at #MuseumsAdvocacy2018.