Among eighth-grade students, the proportion involved in school music or other performing arts generally declined from 1991 to 2010, but there have been some increases in the past few years. Participation among older students has been decreasing in the past few years.
Involvement in artistic and cultural activities, “enriches our experiences, expands our sensibilities, and enhances our understanding” according to Vassar’s Institute for Innovation in Social Policy (IISP). Eighty-four percent of Americans surveyed in 2005 reported that they strongly value the arts in their children’s lives. Parents in IISP’s 2009 National Survey reported that, among children ages five to 18, 43 percent frequently watched movies, 26 frequently attended live performances, and 25 percent frequently went to art shows or museums, in the 12 months prior to the survey. Thus, the arts seem to be an important part of children’s lives outside of school.
In addition, researchers have found a positive association between arts participation and a number of desirable academic and social outcomes, such as school grades, test scores, enrollment in post-secondary education, attainment of a bachelor’s degree, and higher levels of literacy and civic engagement. Notably, despite inequities in arts participation, the favorable outcomes associated with high levels of arts participation are particularly strong for students from families with social and/or economic disadvantage.
Art instruction is reported to improve overall school climate, and has been associated with increased school participation and attendance as well as increased self-esteem and motivation. In particular, those youth who receive music instruction display higher cognitive skills across disciplines. Research has also shown that secondary school students who participate in the arts are more likely to continue to participate as young adults and to have higher levels of educational attainment.  Differing rates of school participation in the arts are reflected in differing facility with understanding and reacting to arts. The 2008 Music and Arts assessment of the National Assessment of Educational Progress asked half of students testing to respond to music, and half to respond to and to create art. White and Asian/Pacific Islander students had higher scores than the black and Hispanic students for both the music sample and the arts sample (results between music and arts cannot be compared). Girls scored higher in music, response to art, and creation of art, compared with boys.
Between 1991 and 2010, the percentage of eighth-grade students participating in school performing arts declined moderately, from 55 to 46 percent. By 2012, the proportion had increased to 51 percent, although it has since fallen to 48 percent. Among tenth-graders, the proportion increased slightly between 1991 and 2004, from 36 to 42 percent, but had returned to 36 percent by 2013. Between 1991 and 2010, the percentage of twelfth-graders participating in the arts remained generally constant, but has since declined; going from 41 to 37 percent between 2010 and 2013. (Appendix 1)
Differences by Gender
Females are much more likely than males to participate in school performing arts activities. The gender gap decreases with age, from 17 to 10 percentage points, in 8th and 12th grades, respectively, in 2013. (Figure 1)
Differences by Age
Eighth-graders are more likely to participate in school performing arts activities than are tenth- or twelfth-graders, with 48 percent participating in 2013. Participation drops significantly among older students, with only 36 percent of tenth-graders and 37 percent of twelfth-graders participating in 2013. (Figure 1) Most of the drop between tenth and twelfth grade is among male students.
Differences by Parental Education
Teens whose parents are more educated are more likely to participate in school arts activities. For example, in 2013, 41 percent of eighth-grade students with no parent who finished high school participated in school music and performing arts, compared with 54 percent of those with both parents who went to graduate school. (Figure 2)
Differences by College Plans
Students who say that they plan to complete four years of college are more likely to participate in school performing arts activities than students who do not plan to complete four years of college. For example, in 2013, 37 percent of tenth-graders who said they planned to complete four years of college participated in school music or performing arts, compared with 23 percent of tenth-graders who did not plan to complete four years of college. (Figure 3)
State and Local Estimates
Participation in school arts includes all students who reported participating to any degree in music or other performing arts in their school during the current school year.
The question reads as follows: To what extent have you participated in the following school activities during this school year? Music or other performing arts. (Response options were” not at all,” “slight,” “moderate,” “considerable,” and “great.”)
Child Trends original analysis of Monitoring the Future survey data, 1991 to 2013.
Raw Data Source
Bachman, J. G., Johnston, L. D., & O’Malley P. M.. Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (8th, 10th, and 12th-Grade Surveys), 1976-2013 [Computer files]. Conducted by University of Michigan, Survey Research Center. ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor].
Monitoring the Future: http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/
|None or under 4 years||39.1||36.9||40.1||42.0||36.6||31.9||34.4||30.8||33.3||28.5||31.0||25.0||31.7||27.2||30.3||30.9||29.5||32.1||32.8||33.5|
|Complete four years||57.1||55.8||57.1||56.1||56.6||55.4||55.7||56.2||52.7||50.3||51.2||50.0||50.8||52.4||49.8||48.2||47.4||51.2||51.8||48.9|
|None or under 4 years||22.4||22.2||25.1||25.1||27.7||29.3||23.8||27.2||19.2||25.2||25.7||24.9||23.3||19.3||21.7||24.7||24.5||21.3||24.7||22.5|
|Complete four years||39.3||42.6||41.2||42.1||41.8||42.4||42.5||43.1||41.5||42.2||44.4||41.4||39.8||38.3||38.7||37.6||39.3||38.5||37.5||36.8|
|None or under 4 years||30.0||28.5||29.2||27.4||27.8||29.9||31.3||31.8||29.6||29.5||29.7||31.4||32.2||31.7||32.5||28.7||31.1||26.1||29.2||28.0|
|Complete four years||43.7||43.6||43.3||42.4||41.8||43.5||43.7||45.2||43.0||43.4||41.9||41.8||44.1||43.3||42.6||41.2||43.0||41.1||39.9||38.7|
|1Parental education is calculated by the Institute of Social Research as the average of the mother’s and father’s education. Child Trends has relabeled these results to reflect the education level of the most educated parent. In those circumstances where the gap between mothers’ and fathers’ education is more than one level, this results in an underestimate of the most educated parent’s education level.
Source: Original analysis by Child Trends of Monitoring the Future data, 1991-2013.
Miringoff, M.-L., & Opdycke, S. (2005). Arts, culture, and the social
health of the nation 2005 [Electronic Version] Poughkeepsie, NY: Institute
for Innovation in Social Policy. Available at: http://iisp.vassar.edu/artsculture.pdf.
Miringoff, M.-L., & Opdycke, S. (2010). The arts in a time of recession. International
Journal of Arts in Society, 4(5), 141-168.
Catterall, J. S. (2012). The arts and achievement in at-risk youth: Findings from four
longitudinal studies. Research
Report #55. With Susan A. Dumais and
Gillian Hampden-Thompson. Washington, DC:
National Endowment for the Arts.
Retrieved from http://www.nea.gov/research/arts-at-risk-youth.pdf
R. (2004). Arts-based teaching and
learning: A review of the literature [Electronic Version] Washington, DC:
VSA Arts. Available at: http://www.kennedy-center.org/education/vsa/resources/VSAarts_Lit_Rev5-28.pdf
 Rauscher, F. H. (2003). Can music instruction
affect children’s cognitive development? Champaign, IL: Clearinghouse on
Early Education and Parenting from http://www.ericdigests.org/2004-3/cognitive.html.
Zaff, J. F., O’Neill, S. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2002). What does arts participation in adolescence predict in early adulthood? Washington, DC:
National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). Arts 2008 music &
visual arts: National Assessment of Educational Progress at grade 8.
Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.
Child Trends Databank. (2015). Participation in school music or other performing arts. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=participation-in-school-music-or-other-performing-arts
Last updated: November 2015