Are starving artists happier?
Performance and visual artists have above average job satisfaction.
Artists have higher job satisfaction than the rest of us, according to a study published this month in the Journal of Cultural Economics. Researchers analyzed job data in Germany, which included information on how fulfilled people felt in their current positions. On a scale of 1 to 10, artists—those whose principal occupation involves performance or visual art—ranked their job satisfaction at 7.32 to 7.67 on average, while nonartists averaged 7.06.
The study abstract says self-employment, variety of work and on-the-job-learning may contribute to why artists are happier despite low pay and high unemployment:
The artistic labor market is marked by several adversities, such as low wages, above-average unemployment, and constrained underemployment. Nevertheless, it attracts many young people. The number of students exceeds the available jobs by far. A potential explanation for this puzzle is that artistic work might result in exceptionally high job satisfaction, a conjecture that has been mentioned at various times in the literature. We conduct the first direct empirical investigation of artists’ job satisfaction. The analysis is based on panel data from the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey (SOEP). Artists on average are found to be considerably more satisfied with their work than non-artists, a finding that corroborates the conjectures in the literature. Differences in income, working hours, and personality cannot account for the observed difference in job satisfaction. Partially, but not fully, the higher job satisfaction can be attributed to the higher self-employment rate among artists. Suggestive evidence is found that superior “procedural” characteristics of artistic work, such as increased variety and on-the-job learning, contribute to the difference in job satisfaction.
Source: “The Happy Artist? An Empirical Application of the Work-Preference Model” from University of Zurich Department of Economics Working Paper No. 37
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