Per Capita Spending and Ranking FAQ

How is per capita spending calculated?

In order to express arts funding on a per person basis, each state arts agency’s funding is divided by the size of that state’s population. The resulting figure allows for each level of arts support to be compared among states with widely varied budget or population sizes.

In order to ensure consistency in the way state per capita figures are calculated, NASAA uses the most recent population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. See State Population Estimates for the numbers used to calculate per capita spending figures for the current year.

What funds are included in the per capita calculations?

NASAA provides four per capita calculations for each state:

  • Legislative Appropriation Including Line Items reflects the total dollar amount appropriated to an agency by its state legislature, including both the base appropriation and any line item funding.
  • Legislative Appropriation Excluding Line Items is calculated without line items (which are funds appropriated by the legislature to pass through the state arts agency’s budget and on to other designated entities).
  • All State Funds includes the agency’s legislative appropriations, line item appropriations and other state funds received separate from the appropriation. These other funds may include interagency agreements, transfer funds from other state departments and some Percent for Art allocations.
  • Total Agency Revenue reflects all funding to the agency. This includes legislative appropriations, line items, other state funds, support from the National Endowment for the Arts and funding from other sources (such as foundation dollars, corporate and individual support, non-NEA federal grants and other miscellaneous funding secured by the agency).

Which ranking should I use?

Although all the rankings are valid, many agencies choose to use the one ranking that most closely matches their own revenue profile. For instance, states that receive no legislative line items may prefer the “Legislative Appropriations Excluding Line Items” ranking. Likewise, states that receive significant funding outside of their regular appropriation often select the “All State Funds” figure. Before selecting a ranking, consult Total State Arts Agency Revenue SourcesNASAA member-only content for information on applicable revenue sources for each agency.

Another way to use the rankings is to select the figure which most closely complements the case you are making for arts support. If you need to focus attention on core legislative support, the rankings based exclusively on appropriations would probably be the most appropriate. In contrast, if you want to emphasize budget diversification, one of the more inclusive rankings may be applicable.

So there isn’t one “official” ranking for my state?

No. They are all official and all statistically valid. Rather than superimposing one ranking system on the whole country, NASAA provides multiple rankings to more accurately reflect the diversity among states and to give state arts agencies the ability to compare themselves to their colleague SAAs through various lenses. Ultimately, it is up to each state arts agency to decide when and if the use of a particular ranking is appropriate in their state. NASAA encourages state arts agencies to select rankings thoughtfully and to be able to explain why that choice is most appropriate for your unique circumstances.

How should this information be conveyed to the press?

NASAA’s national communications strategy is designed to support your tactics at the state level. To this end, NASAA routinely contacts members before we respond to inquiries from media outlets in any individual state. This keeps members abreast of emerging stories and also allows you to guide us in selecting the most appropriate ranking to quote for your state. When you get your own press inquiries, consult the tips above and NASAA’s Talking Points to craft your messages. If you cite a per capita ranking or spending figure, be certain to accurately label which funding sources are included. You may also ask NASAA to convey your message to the media on your behalf. Contact Sue Struve or Kelly Barsdate for assistance.

Where can I get additional information?

For additional information on legislative appropriations or per capita spending, contact Henry Clapp.