Waging Culture 2012: One more on methodology

We know you’re awaiting some actual results. If it makes you feel any better, so are we. In our previous post we mentioned two important potential sampling errors in our 2012 dataset. Without a suitable external comparator, such as reliable results from the Census, we are unable to check our results to see which demographic profile is more likely to be accurate. It is important for us to fully understand the potential pitfalls in our data before we begin reporting on any of the results.

(There is a good chance that an analysis based on Statistics Canada’s Labour Force survey will offer us the insight needed to assess our demographic stats, and we have been led to believe that such a study is in the works. When that comes out, we will let you know.)

In the meantime, we have looked closer at those two sectors that appear to be out of alignment in our responses. These were a higher than expected response from artists 25 to 34 based in Toronto, and a lower than expected response from francophone artists within Québec.

For Toronto, we looked at the proportional difference of respondents in the various age categories across all the regions. This revealed that in fact, we had an overall jump in proportion of artists 25 to 34 in all regions (from 24% to 35%). The increase being across the board leaves us to wonder whether this in fact does reflect an underlying demographic shift. With the 2008 recession, and with the resultant increase in unemployment unevenly affecting younger Canadians, it could be surmised that there is a lower opportunity-cost applied to being an artist for this sector of the population. In other words, if you cannot find a (stable) job in the first place, the risk of lost-income as a result of pursuing an art practice is, ironically, lessened.

The second aspect to note is that, in general, the relative results of financial data and other demographic characteristics within each subset of the age category are relatively consistent. Thus, even if this increase is attributable to sampling error it should not skew our results in any significant manner.

Related to this is an apparent oversampling of Toronto in general. In 2007, 17% of responses came from the GTA, while in 2012, 28% are from Toronto. This is more likely a result of sampling error (which, one should note, does not mean that the 2012 results are necessarily the skewed ones. It is also possible that the survey in 2007 undersampled Toronto, or that both are off). This only poses an issue, however, when looking at population distributions. Comparing, for instance, demographic or economic profiles of Toronto and Vancouver is still possible. Stating, with conviction, of raw population counts is however less accurate.

The second inconsistency in our sampling concerned the proportion of francophone artists from Québec. In 2007, francophone artists represented 55% of respondents from Québec (the balance being anglophone and allophones). Compared to Bellavance, Bernier, and Laplante study of Québec artists, this figure is within the expected range. In our 2012 data, however, the ratio of francophone respondents in Québec dropped to 47%. Even though this shift is comparable in magnitude to the shift in the 25 to 34 age bracket, there is not any conceivable reason why this demographic would have shifted, and thus this is clearly a sampling error. With the significant differences in income for francophone (total income $26,177 in 2007) and anglophone (total income $16,319 in 2007) artists in Québec, this sampling error could skew results in our analyses, something that we will take into account in any reporting we do.

The pre-analysis preliminary work on the data now seems done, and we will be moving along to some numbers soon. Hold tight, as our next post is going to take the broad view, comparing the full dataset between 2007 and 2012.

[For the Bellavance, Bernier and Laplante report, see: Guy Bellavance, Léon Bernier, et Benoît Laplante (2005) Les conditions de pratique des artistes en arts visuels: rapport d’enquête, phase 1, (Montreal: INRS Urbanisation, Culture et Société, 2e édition, 2005).]

This is one of a series of mini-reports on the results of the 2012 Waging Culture survey, a study of the socio-economic conditions faced by Canadian-resident professional visual artists. Supported by the Art Gallery of York University, it is an undertaking of Michael Maranda. This is the second iteration of the survey. For other mini-reports, and for the full 2007 report, click here. Comments and questions may be directed to wagingculture@theagyuisoutthere.org