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Participation in School Music or Other Performing Arts
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Teens whose parents are more educated are more likely to participate in school arts activities. (See Figure 2)


While causation is complex, many researchers have found a positive association between arts participation and various academic and social outcomes such as school grades and a decrease in negative social behaviors.1 Art instruction is reported to improve overall school climate, and has been associated with increased student participation and attendance as well as increased self esteem and motivation.2 In particular, those youth who receive music instruction display higher cognitive skills across disciplines. 3

Recent research has also shown that secondary school students who participate in the arts are more likely to continue to participate as young adults and to have higher levels of educational attainment.4 In addition, the performing arts are considered by many to be intrinsically valuable, transmitting culture and providing pleasure for those who participate.


Between 1991 and 2006, the percentage of eighth grade students participating in school performing arts declined moderately from 55 percent to 49 percent. The percentage of tenth and twelfth graders participating in school performing arts has neither increased nor decreased significantly during this same period. Despite fluctuating slightly, performing arts participation in 2006 remains at approximately 38 percent for tenth graders, and around 41 percent for twelfth graders. (See Table 1)

Differences by Gender

Females are much more likely than males to participate in school performing arts activities. The gender gap varies little by grade, ranging in 2006 from 13 to 18 percentage points. (See Figure 1)

Differences by Age

Eighth graders are the slightly more likely to participate in school performing arts activities, with 49 percent participating in 2006. Participation drops significantly among older students, with only 38 percent of tenth graders and 40 percent of twelfth graders participating in 2006. (See Figure 1)

Differences by Parental Education

Teens whose parents are more educated are more likely to participate in school arts activities. For example, in 2006, 36 percent of eighth grade students whose parents did not graduate from high school participated in school music and performing arts, compared with 64 percent of those with a parent who went to graduate school. (See Figure 2)

Differences by College Plans

Students who say that they plan to complete four years of college are more likely to participate in school performing arts activities than students who do not plan to complete four years of college. For example, in 2006, 40 percent of tenth graders who said they planned to complete four years of college participated in school music or performing arts, compared with 23 percent of tenth graders who did not plan to complete four years of college. (See Figure 3)

Related Indicators

Volunteering, Participation in School Athletics

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State and Local Estimates

None available

International Estimates

None available

National Goals


What Works: Programs and Interventions that May Influence this Indicator

Click here to view examples of programs and interventions that research has evaluated for this indicator. View programs

Research References

1Winner, E. & Hetland, L. (Eds.) (2000). "Arts and Academic Improvement: What the Research Shows." Journal of Aesthetic Education, 34 (3-4). Executive summary available on-line at: http://www.pz.harvard.edu/Research/REAP.htm

2Rooney, Robin. (May 2004). Arts Based Learning and Teaching. A Review of the Literature. Literature prepared for VSA Arts, Washington D.C. http://www.vsarts.org/documents/resources/research/VSAarts_Lit_Rev5-28.pdf

3Rauscher, Francis H. (2003). Can Music Instruction Affect Children's Cognitive Development? Champaign, IL: ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education. http://www.ericdigests.org/2004-3/cognitive.html

4 Zaff, J. F., O'Neill, S. A., & Eccles, J. S. (2002). What does arts participation in adolescence predict in early adulthood? Washington, DC: Child Trends, unpublished paper.


Participation in school arts includes all students who reported participating to any degree in music or other performing arts in their school during the current school year.

Data Source

Child Trends original analysis of Monitoring the Future survey data, 1991 to 2006.

Raw Data Source

Bachman, Jerald G., Lloyd D. Johnston, and Patrick M. O'Malley. Monitoring the Future: A Continuing Study of American Youth (8th, 10th, and 12th-Grade Surveys), 1976-2006 [Computer files]. Conducted by University of Michigan, Survey Research Center. ICPSR ed. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [producer and distributor].
ICPSR: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu
Monitoring the Future:http://www.monitoringthefuture.org

Approximate Date of Next Update

November 2006

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Trends &
Subgroup Differences
Related Indicators
State, Local &
International Estimates
National Goals
What Works: Programs that May Influence this Indicator
Definition, Data
& Next Update

Supporting Figures
Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3

Supporting Tables
Table 1
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