Skip to content

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

Category: Press Release

For Immediate Release

February 13, 2018

Laura Lott, President and CEO, American Alliance of Museums
Laura Lott, President and CEO, American Alliance of Museums

ARLINGTON, VAThe 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.

Star Advocates

Twenty-two museum advocates will be honored with Star Advocate awards, recognizing their fifth or tenth year participating in Museums Advocacy Day. The awards will be presented during the program at the Washington Plaza Hotel on Monday, Feb. 26.

2018 5 Time Attendee Star Advocates:

  • Jessica Maria Alicea, representing Association for Living History, Farm and Agricultural Museums
  • Kristy Bassuener, representing Denver Art Museum
  • Margaret Benjamin, representing Weatherspoon Art Museum and LSU Museum of Art
  • Patti Curtis, representing Museum of Science, Boston
  • Dr. Robert Davis, representing DRMD Strategies
  • Amy Durbin, representing New Haven Museum
  • Todd Happer, representing Association of Science-Technology Centers
  • Jim Hodgson, representing Fort Worth Aviation Museum
  • Eliza Kozlowski, representing George Eastman Museum
  • Matt Maher, representing Port Discovery Children’s Museum
  • Martha  Morris, representing George Washington University
  • Scot Phillips, representing Massillon Museums
  • Patricia Relay, representing Valdez Museum & Historical Archive
  • Ruth Ann Rugg, representing Texas Association of Museums
  • Kathy Shannon, representing Petroleum Museum
  • Erin Younger, representing Burke Museum
  • Tom Schuler, representing The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Kevin Russell, representing Blackbaud

2018 10 Time Attendee Star Advocates:

  • Elsa Bailey, representing Elsa Bailey Consulting
  • Anna Deych, Independent Consultant
  • Andy Finch, representing Association of Art Museum Directors
  • Kathy Kelsey Foley, representing Woodson Art Museum
  • George Moroz, representing The Henry Ford
  • Guy Vanderpool, representing Amon Carter Museum of American Art
  • John Wetenhall, representing The George Washington University Museum

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.

About the American Alliance of Museums

The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit

About Oxford Economics

Founded in 1981 as a commercial venture with Templeton College (then the business college of the University of Oxford and now part of the university’s Saïd Business School), Oxford Economics is now a world-leading independent research and consultancy firm providing economic advice and forecasts to businesses, governments and other public and private sector organisations. Oxford Economics specialises in global economic forecasts, analysis, corporate and public-policy advice. The firm offers a sophisticated portfolio of forecasting services, consisting of regular reports, databases, and models on countries, cities, and industries.

About Wilkening Consulting

Wilkening Consulting provides the museum field with national research on museum-goers and the broader population. Through rigorous and groundbreaking research, we seek to understand the impact museums have on individuals, families, communities, and American society. For more information, visit

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.


Media Contact:

Joseph Klem
Director, Public Relations
American Alliance of Museums

AAM Member-Only Content

AAM Members get exclusive access to premium digital content including:

  • Featured articles from Museum magazine
  • Access to more than 1,500 resource listings from the Resource Center
  • Tools, reports, and templates for equipping your work in museums
Log In

We're Sorry

Your current membership level does not allow you to access this content.

Upgrade Your Membership


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Field Notes!

Packed with stories and insights for museum people, Field Notes is delivered to your inbox every Monday. Once you've completed the form below, confirm your subscription in the email sent to you.

If you are a current AAM member, please sign-up using the email address associated with your account.

Are you a museum professional?

Are you a current AAM member?

Success! Now check your email to confirm your subscription, and please add to your safe sender list.