The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies, a new research report from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), shows that at-risk youth who have access to the arts in or out of school tend to have better academic results, better workplace opportunities, and more civic engagement.  The study focuses on the potential effects of arts engagement (including coursework in dance, music, theater, visual arts, and participation in arts organizations) on youth from the lowest quarter of socioeconomic status.  The figures of this study are drawn from four separate studies (three from the U.S. Department of Education), to track children, teenagers, and young adults who had high or low levels of arts engagement in or out of school.

Upon reflection of the report, NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman declared that “arts education doesn’t take place in isolation…It has to take place as part of an overall school and education reform strategy.  This report shows that arts education has strong links with other positive educational outcomes.”

Key findings of the report include:

Better Academic Outcomes: Youth of low socioeconomic status (SES) with a history of in-depth arts involvement (“high arts”) show better academic outcomes than low-SES youth with less arts involvement (“low arts”).  They have higher grades, and have higher rates of college enrollment.

  • High-arts, low-SES eighth grade students were 74 percent more likely to have planned to earn a bachelor’s degree than their low-arts, low-SES student counterparts at 43 percent.
  • 17 percent of students with access to the arts in high school earned a bachelors degree, whereas only 5 percent of students with little-to-no access to the arts earned the same degree.
  • High-arts, low-SES high school students were two-to-three times more likely to be involved in extracurricular activities such as intramural and interscholastic sports, and academic honor societies, than low-arts, low-SES students.

Higher Career Goals: 50 percent of all low-SES adults with high-arts backgrounds expected to work in a professional career (such as law, education, medicine, or management) compared to the 21 percent of  their low-arts, low-SES counterparts

More Civically Engaged: Young adults with high-arts backgrounds are more likely to show civic-minded behavior than young adults of low-arts backgrounds.

  • 73 percent of high-arts, low-SES eighth graders were likely to read a newspaper at least once a week, whereas only 44 percent of low-arts, low-SES eighth grade students were likely to do so.
  • 45 percent of high-arts, low-SES young adults voted in the 2004 national election, versus the 31 percent of low-arts, low-SES students who also voted in the same election.

Read a summary of the report from the NEA, and read the full report.

Learn more about the inequity of access to arts education, and how when integrated, can actually narrow the achievement gap: