Erie Vital Signs

Presence of Arts and Cultural Activities: Nonprofit Community Celebrations, Festivals and Fairs per 100,000 population

Recent Performance

Erie County’s performance on this indicator in 2012 was very strong—over 2.8 times the national level!

The Basics

This indicator shows the number of nonprofit organizations that are dedicated to providing community festivals, fares and commemorative celebrations, per 100,000 population. Note that this is a measure of organization, technically, so it does not count festivals and fairs put on by organizations who do other things as their primary purpose. Of course, Erie has many beloved and well-attended and events of this type, too.

Why is this important?

According to the Urban Institute, this is a measure of opportunities for cultural participation. Further, it “is of particular interest because we have found this type of arts and cultural activity to be especially significant within a community context. This type of activity typically involves both professional and amateur, formal and informal arts practice as well as collaborations among a range of entities inside and outside the cultural sector (e.g., other arts organizations, artists, community organizations, schools, parks, churches, and local businesses). Moreover, it is within this type of venue or event that we see evidence of collective art making, a particular type of cultural participation with which this project has been especially concerned.” (Jackson et al, p. 40)

The Details

This indicator is another of the Urban Institute’s “Tier One” indicators, meaning that these indicators use data from respected sources, that are available annually down to the metro area level, and are comparable across areas. To calculate this variable, we used data from the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) database on the number of organizations in selected NTEE categories. We then used population data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Estimates program (rather than data from the American Community Survey, which is less accurate) to calculate the per capita measures. We adjusted these to a “per 100,000 residents” basis to make the numbers a little more user-friendly.

The Nitty-Gritty Details

This indicator makes use of the Urban Institute’s recommended procedure, which uses the following National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities Core Codes (NTEE-CC), from the 2003 National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) database, for our Nonprofit Arts Organization per 10,000 population measure. (The source is given below.) This indicator uses three NTEE codes:
A27, Community celebrations
A84, Commemorative events
N52, Fairs.

The NCCS database is generally recognized as the broadest and most accurate file for nonprofit research. It starts with the IRS Business Master File of all active organizations that have registered for tax-exempt status with the IRS. Variables such as NTEE codes and FIPS (geographical) codes are added by NCCS to provide additional research capabilities. More information is available here

But it is far from a “perfect” database. As the Urban Institute points out: “Data from nonprofits’ IRS 990 tax forms provide regularly collected and publicly available information about revenue and expenditures. These data have been further assembled into more analytically ready information by the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) at the Urban Institute. The main advantage of the NCCS database is that it provides the most reliable regular source of information on nonprofit organizations. Often acknowledged limitations of IRS 990 data include the fact that organizations with annual incomes (gross receipts) of less than $25,000 are not required to file Form 990, that inactive organizations may remain in the dataset, and that religious institutions (i.e., churches or temples) are not required to register with the IRS. In addition, various programs of large nonprofits are aggregated under the main purpose or mission of the organization.” (Jackson et al, p. 68.)


This indicator has no subcategories.

Peer Areas

This indicator include data on Erie County and the United States as a whole.




Additional Studies and Research

Maria Rosario Jackson, Florence Kabwasa-Green, and Joaquín Herranz. Cultural Vitality in Communities: Interpretation and Indicators. Culture, Creativity, and Communities Program, The Urban Institute, 2006. Online here

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