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A Different Look at the Holiday Economy in New York City


New Yorkers love the holidays – it doesn’t take more than quick walk down any wintery block in Manhattan to figure that out.

Holiday music rings in every store, and “tree-lined street” fosters a whole new meaning as Christmas pines are sold on virtually every corner. And importantly, what we on the Economic Research & Analysis team call the holiday economy bustles with renewed fervor.

The holiday economy is comprised of a number of factors and this month we’re exploring how cultural and religious institutions throughout the City impact the local economic landscape.

Attendance at museums and historical sites unsurprisingly rises during the holiday and summer downtimes. Several factors could explain this trend; for example, leisure tourism tends to spike during the summer, and students are not attending school and may have more time to visit these locations. Museum employment is also highly seasonal (Figure I); museums and historical sites employed nearly 14,000 people in 2015, the most common of these positions being protective service workers who made up roughly 2,000 of these jobs.

Cultural institutions—spanning from art museums to religious organizations—are an integral part of New York City holiday life. According to NYC & Company, more than one-fifth of domestic tourists and more than half of overseas visitors attended a museum or gallery while in the region in 2015. International visitors typically stay longer (9.0 days for overseas visitors, compared to 2.1 for domestic) and have more time to visit cultural institutions.

New York City’s leading cultural institutions include some of the world’s most renowned museums and performing art companies. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), for example, regularly generates the highest revenue of the any of the city’s cultural institutions. In 2013 (the latest year for which IRS data is available) The Met’s incomes totaled $631.6 million, which includes tickets, contributions, asset sales, and other sources. The Met continues to experience steady growth, with revenues and assets up 34.4% and 8.4%, respectively, from 2011[1].

Interestingly, half of the city’s top ten revenue-earning cultural institutions are museums, and four are performing arts organizations. The city’s most prominent museums have seen positive revenue growth in recent years; however, the city’s major performing arts centers have experienced falling revenues over a similar period.

Check out the map below analyzing the concentration of art galleries by zip code!

[1] Two-year trends are used to smooth the high year-to-year volatility of non-profit revenues.

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