Why Do Artists Report Higher Job Satisfaction?

In “The Happy Artist: an empirical application of the work-preference model,” Lasse Steiner and Lucian Schneider of the University of Zurich present the first direct empirical study on artists’ job satisfaction. Artists are found to be considerably more satisfied with their work than non-artists. What’s more, the data suggest that this difference in satisfaction cannot be explained by differences in income or working hours. Artists’ job satisfaction likely stems in part from the nature of artistic work itself.

The study notes that artists have a high rate of self-employment, and self-employed individuals in any field are more likely to report higher satisfaction in their work. In general, the freedom that comes with self-employment makes people happier in their jobs. But this can only partially explain artists’ higher job satisfaction. Other important characteristics that account for the greater job satisfaction include variety of work; opportunity to learn new things; and in their work process.

Steiner and Schneider show that artists and non-artists in general feel the same about their job security and how satisfied they are with their income, but even here artists stand out. While income does affect job satisfaction for both artists and non-artists, “the effect is substantially smaller for artists.”

Notably, the authors also found that artists, unlike non-artists, report higher job satisfaction with more working hours.

Steiner and Schneider defined artists for the purpose of this study as those whose primary occupation is artistic. They note that including those with secondary jobs as artists would have only made the observed effects more pronounced. The dataset they used came from Germany, and was not large enough to completely rule out the possibility that causality runs in the opposite direction (that more satisfied people become artists) or that the increased satisfaction of artists is due to ingrained personality traits rather than the effects of the work. Further research could prove what this study strongly suggests: that the characteristics of artistic work lead to higher job satisfaction.

Steiner, Lasse and Lucian Schneider. 2013. "The Happy Artist: An Empirical Application of the Work-Preference Model." Journal of Cultural Economics 37(2): 225-246. doi: 10.1007/s10824-012-9179-1

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