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Culture Employment in a North American Context

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1981 to 2001

by Paul Sereda

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The culture sector has come to be recognized for both its economic and social contributions and the important role it plays in the vitality of a community. In addition to being a key defining aspect of a society, culture is a central element in the liveability of a city. This paper quantifies and assesses the role of culture employment in urban settings in Canada and the United States over the past two decades.

Canadian census data are used for the years 1981, 1991 and 2001 and U.S. census data for the years 1980, 1990 and 2000. The analysis is performed at both the national and metropolitan levels, with selected cities examined in greater detail. Data are reviewed descriptively and through regression analysis.

The results of the study indicate that, in both Canada and the United States, metropolitan areas typically had higher shares of culture sector employment compared to rural areas and the nation as a whole. Additionally, there is evidence to suggest a positive relationship between the share of employment in creative and artistic occupations and the population size of the city. As well, culture sector employment grew at a much greater rate than the workforce as a whole over the period 1981 to 2001.

In particular, there appear to be some key differences between Canada and the United States. These differences include stronger growth in employment in culture occupations in Canada than the United States, which caused Canada’s share of the workforce in culture occupations to surpass that of the United States by the end of the period. Another difference is that the proportion of culture occupation employment in performing arts occupations is higher in Canada than the United States. Overall this study shows that Canada’s culture sector has been performing well and that large cities have played an important role in this.

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