Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (in census information on artists)
Are people who portray Santa Claus "artists"? ... and other intriguing questions. Plus: a new, less-binary approach to gender.
As David Bowie sang, ch-ch-ch-ch-changes are upon us, only some of which might be considered “strange”, as the song says.
When turning and facing the changes in the long-form census, the most important thing to note is that …
data analysis from the 2021 census is not comparable to published reports in the Statistical Insights on the Arts series from prior census years.
This post explains why, but I want to note that I will eventually work out appropriate comparisons to previous census years.
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A brand new occupational classification leads to new calculations for artists
The first batch of occupational data from the 2021 census data was released on November 30 (aka last Wednesday). With this new release, Statistics Canada has updated its occupational classification.
There were no changes to most of the artist occupations:
Artisans and craftspersons
Conductors, composers, and arrangers
Musicians and singers
Painters, sculptors, and other visual artists
Producers, directors, choreographers, and related occupations
In addition, there was no change in the occupational category for photographers between 2016 and 2021. The important change regarding photographers is that…
in discussions with paid subscribers, it was nearly unanimous that photographers should be added to the list of artist occupations. This is probably the most significant change from previous census statistics on artists.
There are other important changes:
The previous “authors and writers” occupation group was split, with technical writers carved out into their own category, leaving authors and writers (excluding technical writers) as the remaining artist occupation. I find it interesting that just 24% of all authors and writers are considered “technical writers”. The remaining 76% stayed in the category for non-technical writers – and therefore in our count of artists. This change strengthens the artistic element in the remaining category, but the category still includes many types of writers (e.g., novelists, playwrights, poets, essayists, biographers, advertising writers, bloggers, etc.).
Circus performers were removed from the “other performers” category and added to the revised “actors, comedians, and circus performers” category (which remains an artist occupation).
The change in the “other performers” category is where Santa Claus comes into consideration.
Is Santa Claus an artist?
Parents and caregivers: cover your children’s eyes for this section.
The removal of circus performers weakened the artistic element in the “other performers” category. Circus performers were a key reason why the other performers category had been included as artists.
This change led me to a close examination of the occupations that are left in the “other performer” category. (In my career, I never really thought that I'd be asking whether someone who portrays Santa Claus is an artist. But here we are.)
Statistics Canada provides a long list of occupations that should be classified as other performers (the emphasis on Santa Claus/ Mrs. Claus is mine):
art and photography model
deejay (DJ) - turntablist
rodeo horse rider
Santa Claus/Mrs. Claus
stunt performer - entertainer
veejay (VJ) - video performance artist
With apologies to the kids in all of us, at a certain level, people who portray Santa Claus are actors. However, if someone portrayed Santa Claus in May of 2021, or listed "Santa Claus" as their job of longest duration since the start of 2020, then it’s possible that they are not really who people are thinking about when we talk about artists. But maybe this is an elitist view of things, especially in 2020, when it’s quite possible (and very sad to think) that Santa Claus gigs might have been the best opportunities that some actors had.
But that’s just one example in a long list of occupations.
Buskers, DJs, puppeteers, face painters, and some others could easily be considered “artists”. But some occupations on this list of “other performers” might not be considered artists by their peers. What do you think?
UPDATE: I have submitted a census data request that includes this group of “other performers” as artists.
In practical terms, the inclusion or exclusion of other performers would have a minimal impact on the overall current number of artists. There are only about 5,000 other performers among hundreds of thousands of artists. (In fact, the number of people classified as other performers decreased quite a bit between 2016 and 2021, possibly due to the exclusion of circus performers.)
However, the potential exclusion of other performers would create a challenge for historical comparisons of artists. Other performers were included as artists in previous census years, and the only change to the category was circus performers being moved to another artist occupation. So the comparison of the overall number of artists would be much easier if other performers continued to be included as artists.
The changes to artist occupations are the main reason why the overall data on artists in 2021 should not be compared with published reports in the Statistical Insights on the Arts series.
Finally, a question on gender (not just “sex”)!
But non-binary individuals are often reclassified into binary categories
In 2016 and prior census years, the sex of respondents was identified using a binary question: “What is this person's sex? Male; Female”. There was no question related to gender identity.
In 2021, a new question about gender was added to the census, including three options: man, woman, and “please specify this person's gender”.
This is major progress, despite the “othering” aspect of the phrasing of the question. Statistics Canada has noted that “Canada is the first country to provide census data on transgender and non-binary people”.
The new question about gender, combined with responses to a separate question about “sex at birth”, allows Statistics Canada to report on cisgender men, cisgender women, transgender men, transgender women, and non-binary persons. The non-binary grouping includes Two-Spirit individuals as well as “persons whose reported gender is, for example, agender, pangender, genderqueer, genderfluid, or gender-nonconforming…. [The non-binary grouping] includes persons whose reported gender is both male and female, neither male nor female, or either male or female in addition to another gender.”
Overall, Statistics Canada has reported that 59,460 people self-identify as transgender and 41,355 individuals self-identify as non-binary. As they note, “one in 300 people in Canada aged 15 and older are transgender or non-binary”. In percentage terms, 1 in 300 equals 0.33%.
Despite the progress in having a separate question about gender, it is troubling that (in many cases) Statistics Canada has adopted a practice whereby non-binary becomes binary, thanks to statistical magic.
To protect confidentiality – given that only 0.33% of the overall population self-identified as transgender or non-binary – Statistics Canada has decided to report many statistics in near-binary fashion, using “men+” and “women+” categories. These categories include cisgender people, transgender individuals who identify as men or women, as well as non-binary persons and transgender individuals who do not identify as men or women.
It is not clear from Statistics Canada’s description exactly how non-binary and some transgender people are classified into the near-binary categories. My best guess is that the classifications are probably based on responses to the question about sex at birth. They don’t seem to have anything else to go on.
There have been many changes this census year. Please don’t compare back to previous census analyses. Comments?
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UPDATE: I have submitted a census data request that includes “other performers” as artists. I.e., It is 1 of 10 artist occupations in 2021.