Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Where Does The NEA Money Go? I: Proposal

Alright, so, the last Pitching Arts to Conservatives post has really become, specifically, "Where Does The NEA Money Go?" This is a question I thought had a simpler answer, but after some questions have been raised about the charts and what they actually mean, I want to delve deeper into the issue and see if I can tease out more information.

So, to recap: with two different sets of data that were arbitrarily selected, two different pictures emerged. One picture was the NEA giving money to CA and NY and kind of neglecting everyone else. The other picture was the NEA giving money fairly evenly, but with the least-populated states getting disproportionate money.

Problems:
  1. Both sets of data were from the Stimulus Bill. I don't know how the Stimulus Bill's money was distributed, but seeing as it originated from Congress rather than from the NEA, there's the possibility that it isn't representative of the NEA's normal funding in the course of events.
  2. The per capita basis of comparing arts funding may skew as the population gets smaller -- $50k in Montana is roughly .10 per capita, whereas it is less than .01 per capita in California. If there's a theoretical/logistical floor to NEA spending, then states at the floor might seem over-represented if per capita is used as the measure.
Anyways, in the coming days I'm going to track down the data to try and measure a few different hypotheses as to how the NEA money winds up being distributed:

HYPOTHESES
  1. The "Money Follows Artists" Theory -- Ian Thal, in the comments, as well as my mother both raised the question as to whether states that have more artists or art organizations will be favored by NEA grants. This would line up more with the first set of data than the second one. This probably means comparing NEA Funding (stimulus/normal budget; raw and per capita) to number or artists (from Census data) and number of art organizations (from...?).
  2. The "NEA Fills In State Gaps" Theory -- J. Holtham, on the other hand, raised the question in the comments as to whether the NEA is predisposed to give more money to states that support their arts less, which is one theory that might explain the second set of data. I am skeptical of this one, but I want to examine it. This means comparing NEA funding (stimulus/normal budget; raw and per capita) to State arts council funding (raw, per capita, and percentage of state budget).
  3. The "NEA Gives it to Big Cities" Theory -- My original theory was that arts funding concentrates in big cities, which the two charts don't really directly reflect well. This means comparing NEA Funding (stimulus/normal budget; by Congressional district) to population density (by Congressional district).
  4. The "NEA as Pork" Theory -- Also related to my original theory, the idea that NEA funds are distributed to make Congresspeople happy. I am almost completely sure that the normal NEA distribution is not this way, but I am curious about whether the Stimulus bill was determined this way. This means comparing NEA funding (stimulus/normal budget; by congressional district) to total earmarks (by congressional district).
  5. The "NEA as Liberal" Theory -- A minor theory of mine as to why the first set of data gave NY and CA an advantage over TX, NEA funding (stimulus/normal budget) to CPVI (a dataset that I can find immediately!)
I think those are the major theories that I want to test with the numbers. I will probably go one-by-one over the next week or so, depending on how much work it is to find each of these data sets. If anyone wants to comment with good sources for this data, I'd be much obliged.

(UPDATE: In lieu of the CPVI set, I'm going to try and get the Social/Economic Liberal/Conservative scores that FiveThirtyEight.com just used. It gets me a little more fine investigation of the leanings of state voters.)

7 comments:

99 said...

Good luck with getting the data. I ran into the same problem trying to figure out where the NEA money is spent a while back for some back and forth with Scott Walters. I think the final picture (not to go the full cop-out) will be somewhere in the middle, at the intersection of need, concentration and population density and the quirks of our political system. Not anything to make any one person happy and enough to make everyone a little bit upset. So...you know...perfect for blog fodder.

Ian David Moss said...

FYI, I'm pretty sure other people have looked at these questions for the regular NEA giving, though I don't have any specific citations for you. The data may be out of date, but you could at least check to see if there's been any variation over time. I would recommend you contact the NEA Office of Research & Analysis at research@arts.gov to see if they (a) know of other publications/articles for you to check out and/or (b) can provide you with the datasets you need directly. In my experience they are very open and helpful with such inquiries. Feel free to use my name if you like.

CultureFuture said...

Ian: I restrained myself from putting "HELP ME IAN!" somewhere in the text... I knew you'd have a good reference. I will most certainly reach out to them.

99: Yeah, almost certainly will the data be muddled and impossible to make definitive answers towards. I'm looking forward to spending many hours and coming up with few results... it's why I started blogging in the first place.

Ian Thal said...

I suspect that you'll find a statistically significant correlation for more than one of our hypotheses, as given the number of people involved in making these decisions, I doubt they are ideologically of one mind.

CultureFuture said...

No doubt. I also figure that some of these hypotheses are linked. But I would like to know which ones do exist and which ones are plausible but not true

CultureFuture said...

No doubt. I also figure that some of these hypotheses are linked. But I would like to know which ones do exist and which ones are plausible but not true

nea said...

May be the money is going to charity. Who else matters.