December 2018 News Nonprofit Impact

The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies’ Nonprofit Economic Data project (NED) reports that America’s nonprofit sector employs the third largest workforce of when compared to the 18 industries into which statistical authorities divide the American economy. What is more, as of 2016, it is adding employment at a rate that exceeds that of the country’s business sector by a rate of 3-1. Yet, due to the way national economic data are kept, these facts are unknown to most policymakers—as well as to most leaders in the nonprofit sector itself.


The NED has found a way to draw on a previously untapped source of data generated through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW). For 15 years, the NED has been producing cutting-edge reports on the size, composition, distribution, and growth of nonprofit employment in regions and states across the country and the U.S. as a whole drawing on thisunparalleled–but previously untapped–source of data on nonprofit employment.To accomplish this, the Center pioneered a procedure for identifying nonprofitinstitutions (NPIs) in the BLS database and secured BLS cooperation to extractthe resulting data on NPIs in aggregated form from the hundreds of records inthe QCEW dataset. These reports have been instrumental in demonstrating thenonprofit sector’s important role as a powerful economic engine andidentifying key nonprofit trends such as the striking pattern ofnonprofit employment growth and the suburbanization of nonprofit operations.States and localities have used our data to advocate for the sector and toeducate policymakers and the public about the sector’s vital role not only as aprogram and service provider, but also as a major employer and growingindustry.

Nonprofit Works

To ensure these data can be more readily available to a much broader array of users, the Center has created NonprofitWorks.With this site, users can now not only access these US nonprofit employment, establishment, and wage data on the national, state, county, and industry levels, but can also place those data into context by comparing nonprofits to their counterparts in other sectors, as well as assess the demand for the services provided by the nonprofit sector by looking at corresponding population and income data from the U.S. Census Bureau and other sources.

They believe that making these data available can have a powerful transformative impact on how nonprofits are perceived, and therefore on the support they can garner for their important work. In particular, we believe that access to these data will:

  • Increase the visibility and credibility of the nonprofit sector in the eyes of policymakers, the business community, the media, and the general public;
  • Make clear the substantial economic impact nonprofit organizations contribute as employers and generators of payrolls and hence of tax revenues;
  • Underline the dynamic nature of this sector and its contribution to employment growth;
  • Help identify problems and challenges that nonprofit organizations are facing and thus alert sector leaders and policymakers to them;
  • Give policymakers a better basis for policy decisions affecting this set of organizations; and
  • Allow sector support-organizations to keep their data on the sector up-to-date.

Data are currently available at the state and county level for the years 1990-2011, 2015, and 2016. National data are available for 2007-2011, 2015, and 2016. Please see the Methodology page for more information on data sources and limitations.

The Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Economic Data Project (NED) is generating critical new information on the dynamics of the nonprofit sector by analyzing diverse datasets on nonprofit organizations, including data on nonprofit finances, employment and wages, and volunteering.

Nonprofit organizations are facing increased pressures in states and localities throughout the United States, but the nonprofit sector’s ability to respond to these pressures has been limited by a lack of timely information about how prevailing economic realities are affecting the sector.

NED is helping to tackle this problem by charting economic trends in the nonprofit sector including how employment, wages, and finances have changed over time and in relation to other industries. Moreover, the project is able to analyze these data at the national, regional, state, and local level, and to focus on particular subsectors, such as nursing homes, hospitals, home health centers, education, social services, and the arts.

A collaboration between the Center for Civil Society Studies, state employment security agencies, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and state nonprofit associations, NED offers the most up-to-date, in-depth analyses now available on these important aspects of the nonprofit sector.

Their analyses and reports are truly reshaping how the sector is viewed in local, state, and regional economies. For instance, among other things, their work has shown that:

  • Nonprofit employment is much larger than expected and much more widely dispersed, outdistancing many major industries in its contribution to state employment and payrolls.
  • Nonprofit employment is dynamic, growing more rapidly than overall employment.
  • Nonprofit employment is spreading to the suburbs and rural areas.
  • Nonprofit wages actually exceed for-profit wages in many of the fields where both sectors operate.
  • Nonprofits in many states are losing “market share” to for-profit firms in many fields where both sectors are operating, despite their overall growth.

The Project Services page has more detail on the data sources used to measure nonprofit employment, finances, and the contributions of volunteers.

If you are interested in collaborating with the Nonprofit Economic Data Project on a report focused on your region, state, or field, please contact Chelsea Newhouse.

Source: The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies

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