More Than Once In A Blue Moon: Multiple Jobholdings By American Artists
Report 40: Executive Summary
Webster's New World Dictionary defines moonlighting as "the practice of holding a second regular job
in addition to one's main job." Unless otherwise noted, in this study a moonlighting worker's main,
or primary, job is defined as the one in which he or she works (or usually works) the most hours.(1)
It has been recognized for several decades that artists as a group often hold multiple jobs
throughout their careers, either by moonlighting or by switching among several short-term jobs.(2)
Although the term "moonlighting artist" implies that the artist job is the primary job, artistic
jobs can also be, and often are, held as second jobs. Several labor market studies of artists have
noted and documented their multiple jobholding behavior.(3) This monograph, however, represents the
first systematic study of multiple jobholding by artists.
To place the practice of moonlighting by artists in proper context it is useful to understand (1)
why workers in general moonlight, (2) whether artists moonlight for the same reasons, and (3)
whether artists in other countries, often working under vastly different support systems, engage in
moonlighting practices similar to American artists. As a consequence, this survey is broadened to
incorporate a general discussion of moonlighting in the American labor force, and to the extent that
information is available, multiple jobholding practices of artists in other countries are also
Moonlighting in the American Labor Force
A great deal is known about moonlighting in the American labor force, thanks to researchers, using
the monthly Current Population Survey (CPS) and longitudinal databases such as the Panel Study of
Income Dynamics. However, virtually all these studies have concentrated on issues relating to
moonlighting across the entire labor force. Some general findings from these sources are summarized
Moonlighting by Gender and Ethnicity
Over the 1970-97 period, the moonlighting rate of all workers has varied from 4.5 percent to 6.2
percent, with rates equal to or greater than 6 percent throughout most of the 1990s.(4) In the 1970s,
the moonlighting rate of men averaged roughly twice that of women, but this gap has narrowed over
time. Since 1994, the moonlighting rates of men and women have become essentially equal. In fact, it
has been the increase in moonlighting by women that has driven the overall rate upward over this
period while moonlighting by men has remained at roughly the same level throughout. Over the same
period, the moonlighting rates of whites have consistently been greater than that of blacks and
Moonlighting and the Economy
Moonlighting appears to be pro-cyclical. Although no statistical test of this hypothesis was
conducted, a casual observation of moonlighting and unemployment rates suggests that they are
inversely correlated. In other words, moonlighting is more common when unemployment is low and the
economy is strong.
Moonlighting by Age, Educational Attainment, and Marital Status
Differences in moonlighting rates are also associated with differences in certain other
characteristics of workers. Moonlighting tends first to increase with age, peaking in the 36-45 year
age bracket, and then declining through the rest of one's working years. Moonlighting also increases
at higher levels of education. Married men moonlight more often than those never married and
formerly married men. However, married women moonlight less often than formerly married women, who
in turn moonlight less often than never married women.
Moonlighting Among Occupations
When examining moonlighting among occupations, it is important to understand that this behavior can
be analyzed in two ways. First, one can focus on the occupation of the primary job, in which case
moonlighting is defined by those in the primary occupation working in any second job. Second, one
can examine the same occupation when held as the second or moonlighting job. Here, the primary jobs
held by such workers can be in any occupation.
For example, in 1995 the occupation with the highest percentage of its workers holding any second
job was firefighters, with a moonlighting rate of 28.1 percent. In that year there were 24 primary
occupations in which workers had moonlighting rates in excess of 10 percent; of those, 4 were artist
In contrast, the occupation that was most frequently held as a second job was musicians and
composers; 39.0 percent of all persons working this occupation indicated they held it as a second
job. In that year, there were 32 occupations in which more than 10 percent of all workers in that
occupation worked it as a second job. In 1995, there were 32 occupations with moonlighting rates as
a second job in excess of 10 percent.
Of these, 7 were artist occupations.(5)
Hours Per Week Spent Moonlighting
Those workers who held a second job have spent roughly the same number of hours at that job over the
1970-97 period. The number of hours per week spent moonlighting has held steady at 13 to 14
throughout the period.
Why Do Workers Moonlight?
Motivations for moonlighting can be complex, and the information available on motivations is
limited. Although the Current Population Survey has asked workers why they moonlight (but only at
selected times between 1974 and 1991), the choices it offered respondents were narrow; essentially
most represented variations on financial motives. Of these, the one most often selected (other than
"other") was to pay for regular household expenses.
Economic theory approaches the issue of moonlighting as a problem of constrained hours at the first
job. If a worker needs more earnings, why not simply work more hours on the first job? Job market
and contractual constraints may limit the hours a person can work on a principal job; hence the need
for a second job. This theory has been verified in empirical studies. However, some of these studies
have uncovered other motives for moonlighting. Among them are (1) working two jobs in which
complementary skills are required, (2) reducing risks of unemployment and low earnings by working in
two unrelated occupations, and (3) working a second job to gain skills and contacts unavailable in
one's first job. These studies have also reported that taking a second job becomes more likely with
(1) lower wages on the first job, (2) higher wages on the second job, (3) younger workers, (4) more
educated workers, and (5) less hours worked by one's spouse.
Moonlighting Among American Artists
In many ways, artists are unusual members of the labor force. Since "unusual" is a relative term, it
is important to cite a frame of reference. Although all workers represent a possible comparison
group to artists, all professional workers other than artists are compared instead. This group is
typically referred to as other professionals throughout the narrative. The eleven artist occupations
are found within the Census professional workers occupational group. Artists' personal
characteristics, in particular their average educational attainment, more closely resemble those of
other professionals than other occupational groups. However, artists tend to experience labor market
outcomes more adverse than those of most other professionals. Over the past several decades artists
have experienced unemployment rates roughly twice those of other professionals and have had annual
earnings ranging from 77 to 88 percent of the average earnings of other professionals.(6)
Similarly, artists have higher rates of multiple jobholding than do persons in the overall
workforce, higher than even those of other professionals.(7) However, unlike higher unemployment and
lower earnings, higher rates of moonlighting in an occupation are economically ambiguous; one also
needs to look at the reasons stated for taking a second job before concluding that that choice is
made out of financial distress. Thus one has to examine carefully the evidence on moonlighting by
artists to determine whether this practice reflects distress, opportunity, or a mix of factors.
The information on moonlighting by artists presented in this report was extracted from monthly
Current Population Survey data files. For selected years between 1970 and 1991, the CPS queried all
workers about moonlighting practices only in its May survey. Since 1994, most questions about
moonlighting practices have been asked every month. Also, between 1970 and 1997 artists ranged
between one and two percent of the labor force. Thus for the years 1970 to 1991, this small sample
of working artists reporting their moonlighting behavior (or lack thereof) led to the aggregation of
the eleven Census artist occupations into four occupational groups in order to gain increased sample
reliability. These aggregated occupational groups are (1) architects and designers (both original
Census artist occupational categories), (2) performing artists (musicians and composers, actors and
directors, dancers, and announcers), (3) visual artists (painters, sculptors, craft artists and
artist printmakers, and photographers), and (4) other artists (authors, college and university
teachers of art, drama, and music, and artists not elsewhere classified). For consistency of
reporting, these classifications are continued for 1994 and beyond, even though the sample size has
increased for these years.
Artist Moonlighting Rates
As noted, artists moonlight more frequently than all workers in the labor force. They also moonlight
more frequently than other professional workers. Rates of moonlighting by all artists ranged from 7
to 14 percent between 1970 and 1997. In every year, they exceeded the moonlighting rates of other
professionals; over the period they averaged 40 percent (about 3 percentage points) higher. Other
professional moonlighting rates exceeded those of all workers in every year as well.
Within the artist occupation groupings, some consistent distinctions can be observed. The highest
rates of multiple jobholding were experienced by performing artists and by other artists, each
peaking at just below 20 percent in some years. In most years, visual artists experienced lower
rates of multiple jobholding, and architects and designers still lower rates.
Artist Moonlighting by Gender and Race
An examination of moonlighting by gender and race shows patterns that are not quite the same as
those of other professionals or of the entire labor force. In virtually all years, both men and
women artists moonlighted more frequently than their other professional counterparts. However, while
moonlighting by other professional women rose gradually throughout the 1970-97 period (as it did for
all women in the entire labor force), women artists had relatively constant moonlighting rates.
Throughout this period, they held second jobs at rates approximating those of men.
Because of small sample sizes, moonlighting rates of whites were compared only to all other races,
called "non-whites." Among artists, the moonlighting rates of whites were higher in 12 out of 18
years. However, this pattern of greater multiple jobholding by whites was even more consistent among
other professional workers; whites had higher rates in all but three years. White artists
consistently moonlight more often than white professionals; their rates were higher in all but two
years. Non-white artists had higher moonlighting rates than non-white professionals in all but six
Artist Moonlighting by Age, Educational Attainment, and Marital Status
There was no consistent pattern of moonlighting rates among artists when broken into age groups.
Younger artists often had moonlighting rates as high as, or higher than, older artists. This seems
to be consistent with the often-observed phenomenon of young artists finding it difficult to "make
it" in their chosen careers, and thus needing to fall back on other sources of income. Other
professionals, like all workers, showed moonlighting patterns that first increased with age, most
frequently up to the 36-45 age bracket, and then declined across the remaining age brackets.
Artist moonlighting is positively related to greater levels of education. The most prominent
reflection of this trend is that in 15 of 18 survey years, the highest rates were observed for
artists with over 16 years of education. A similar pattern holds for other professional workers, but
the pattern of increasing moonlighting rates with increasing education is smoother.
There was little or no pattern to moonlighting by marital status among artists. Among other
professionals, never-married professionals typically held multiple jobs more frequently, probably
reflecting the higher percentage of women in this occupational group.
Artist Moonlighting by Region
Breaking the country into four regions, it was found that artist moonlighting rates are highest in
the west and mid-west. The highest moonlighting rates for other professional workers usually
occurred in the west.
Characteristics of the Second Job
There were greater differences in hours worked on the first job between artists and other
professionals than in hours worked on the second job. Other professionals averaged almost 38 hours a
week in their first job, over 4 hours a week more than artists. The time spent by moonlighters on
the second job was virtually the same for both groups, averaging just over 12 hours.
The most common type of second job held by artists was a job in the professional and technical
occupations, including that of artist. Between 1970 and 1997, between 55 and 75 percent of artists
with second jobs held them in these occupations. However, since 1985, the number of moonlighting
artists holding a second job as an artist fell from about three in five to one in three. Over the
same time interval, the number of moonlighting artists holding second jobs in the professional and
technical field other than artist rose from about one in ten to one in three. Despite the
often-cited stereotype, just under 20 percent of moonlighting artists (one in five) held second jobs
in sales, clerical, or service occupations.
Moonlighting Artists Versus Non-Moonlighting Artists
In any given week, the majority of artists do not moonlight. The differences between artists who
moonlight and artists who do not are the same as those that have shown up in studies of moonlighting
in the entire work force. Artists who moonlight tend to be younger, better educated, more likely to
be men, and more likely to be white. Although artists without a second job worked three hours per
week more in their primary job, the total weekly hours worked (first plus second job) of
moonlighting artists were nine hours greater.
Artist Occupations as Second Jobs
The artist occupations are also common choices as second jobs for those with primary jobs in other
occupations. Among the four artist occupational groupings, performing artist was the most common
choice for a second job, followed by other artist, visual artist, and architect/designer in that
order. Moonlighting workers who were artists in their second jobs were older, better educated, more
likely to be men and more likely to be non-white than moonlighters who were artists in their first
jobs. Moonlighters who worked as artists in their second jobs worked four hours a week more in their
first job but worked over an hour per week less in their second (artist) job than moonlighters who
worked as artists in their first jobs.
Reasons for Moonlighting
When asked by the CPS why they moonlight, artists most frequently indicated that they did so to meet
regular household expenses. Although this also was the most frequently cited reason by other
professionals, they cited it less frequently. Meeting household expenses is consistent with the
constrained hours theory of multiple jobholding: the need to take on a second job, instead of
working more hours at one's primary job, to make ends meet. Among artist occupational groups, this
reason was checked least often by architects and designers“occupations which more closely resemble
the "traditional" professional occupations than other artist occupations.
Enjoying the work on the second job was the reason given second most often by artists for
moonlighting. This reason was also the second choice of other professionals, and was chosen as
frequently by them. The artists' third choice was the desire to obtain a different experience; for
other professionals the third choice was "other."
When non-artists work as artists in a second job, the relative frequency with which they offered the
above reasons for moonlighting were significantly altered. Compared to moonlighters working as
artists in their main job, persons working as artists in a second job more often cited enjoying the
work and obtaining a different experience, and less often cited the need to meet regular household
expenses, as reasons for moonlighting.
Information on Moonlighting from Surveys of Artists
Besides the CPS, one-time surveys of artists reveal additional information about multiple jobholding
practices. These surveys have often asked artists whether they held any jobs other than their
primary artist job at any time during the course of a year, but not whether they held two or more
jobs in the same week. The reported annual rates of multiple jobholding in these surveys naturally
will exceed the rates of moonlighting in a given week reported by the CPS. Another difference found
in these studies is self-selection; virtually everyone surveyed self-identifies (and is classified)
as an artist, even if more time is spent working in a non-artistic occupation. However, these
studies permit the exploration of other issues, such as the amount of time spent in different jobs
throughout the year, the earnings derived from different jobs, and in some cases, more detail about
the nature of the second jobs and why they were chosen.
The most thorough explanation of these issues can be found in Wassall, et al (1983). In that study
of over 3,000 New England artists, the authors found that only 24 percent of the artists surveyed
reported that they worked only in their artist jobs during 1981.(8) Other studies have revealed
similar statistics. For example, Ruttenberg, Friedman, Kilgallon, and Associates (1981) found that
61 percent of performing artists held jobs in 1976 not in their primary profession.(9) Also, Kingston
and Cole (1986), in their survey of authors, found that 70 percent had earnings from work outside
their profession. In addition, Netzer and Parker (1993) reported that 80 percent of choreographers
surveyed in their study held second (or additional) jobs in 1989.(10)
Wassall et al also reported on weeks worked in and earnings from all three types of job. In 1981,
New England artists worked 36.1 weeks as artists, 17.3 weeks in arts-related jobs, and 11.8 weeks in
non-arts-related jobs. These numbers exceed 52 because much of the time spent in these jobs involves
true moonlighting“working in two or more jobs at the same time. Artists' earnings in 1981 were
distributed in the following manner: 41.0 percent from arts work, 30.3 percent from arts-related
work, and 18.7 percent from non-arts-related work.(11) Both the Census and the monthly CPS attribute
all earnings to the primary occupation, and thus reveal nothing about the sources of earnings of
multiple jobholders. The artist survey evidence suggests that this Census procedure gives an
incomplete picture of how artists earn a living.
These surveys often ask artists about reasons for taking a second job. In the 1981 New England
survey, "better pay" was the most frequent response, followed by, in descending order, "better job
security," "not enough artistic work," and "complements artistic work." In the 1976 survey of
performing artists, "not enough work as a performing artist" was the most frequent response,
followed by "complements your work as a performing artist," and then "greater job security."
Given the evidence from the CPS and from direct surveys, artists' moonlighting behavior, though
complex, can be summarized as follows. Those who work as artists in their primary jobs utilize the
second job as a source of extra income, particularly during the intervals, which occur most
frequently in the performing arts, when little art work may be available. Because sporadic
employment opportunities are a common phenomenon in the arts, the end result is higher moonlighting
rates for artists than in most other professions. Those who work as artists in their second jobs are
more likely to be either trying out the artistic job as a new profession, or recognizing that their
art job cannot provide sufficient earnings to support them. Second job artists are less likely to
hold their art job because of hours or income constraints on their first job.
Multiple Jobholding by Artists in Other Countries
Since there are differences in government attitudes toward artists and differences in the openness
of labor markets across countries, it is interesting to see whether moonlighting is a common
practice of artists everywhere. It is especially interesting to compare the labor market experiences
of American artists to those of artists in countries where there are explicit policies of financial
support for working artists.
In some countries, data exist which enable such comparisons. However, these data are not completely
comparable across countries. Also, they were collected through direct surveys of artists, and report
on multiple-jobholding over a period of time (typically a year) rather than on moonlighting during
one week. The most surprising finding gleaned from a review of these studies is that
multiple-jobholding by artists occurs at roughly the same rates in all of these countries.
For example, evidence from Finland, a country with strong government support for artists, shows
rates of multiple-jobholding comparable to those in the United States. One survey noted that only 21
percent of fine artists held no other job outside their occupation, though levels of
multiple-jobholding among performing artists were lower (Karhunen, 1998). A survey of Dutch visual
artists reported that more than one-third of their earnings came from teaching and more than
one-quarter of their earnings came from non-arts work (Rengers, 1998). The Netherlands government
also provides extensive support for artists.
In a similar survey, 20 percent of Canadian visual artists reported working in some type of job
outside their occupation (Bradley, 1978), as did 63 percent of writers in another Canadian survey
(Harrison, 1982). Several surveys in Australia have turned up comparable results. For example,
Throsby and Thompson (1995) found that in 1988 almost three-quarters of artists held some other job
in addition to their artistic work. A 1994-95 survey of British visual artists found that only 11
percent earned all their income from working as artists. Although these three countries have
economic systems more like the United States, their governments also support individual artists more
extensively than the United States.
Given the United States' history of minimal government support for working artists, one would
expect that an explicit policy to limit the need for multiple jobholding would be very low on
any political agenda. The presence of similar multiple jobholding rates in countries which
administer programs of financial support for artists suggests that such traditional public
support, whatever it accomplishes, does little to reduce artists' choices to hold second jobs.
The unique characteristics of the artist labor market make it very likely that its high moonlighting
rates (as well as its high part-time jobholding rates) will persist in the future.
1. This is the definition employed in the Current Population Survey, for example.
2. The first study to document moonlighting activities among artists in a quantitative manner was Ruttenberg, Friedman, Kilgallon, Gutchess and Associates (1978). This study focused only on performing artists who belonged to unions.
3. See for example the discussion of multiple jobholding among artists in Wassall, Alper and Davison (1983), and among authors in Kingston and Cole (1986).
4. These rates refer to the percentage of persons in the labor force holding two or more jobs in a given week. Over the course of a year, the percentage of workers who moonlight at any time during the year is higher; one study (Paxson and Sicherman, 1996) placed it at roughly three times higher.
5. While the Census recognizes over 500 "three digit" occupational categories, there are only 11 Census occupations regularly included by the National Endowment for the Arts in their Research Reports.
6. For more detail, see Wassall and Alper (1999).
7. Recall that a "multiple jobholding artist" is one who is an artist in his or her primary job.
8. Other jobs were defined as "arts-related" or "non-arts-related." Among the arts-related occupations were
teaching in one's art which, at the college level, is defined by the Census as an artistic job.
9. This survey was limited to performing artists who were members of a performing arts union.
10. All these studies measured the number of second jobs held throughout the survey year, rather than in a reference week, as the CPS does.
11. Similar results were found in a follow-up study of artists in Rhode Island. See Alper and Galligan (1999).
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