Social Effects of Culture

Exploratory Statistical Evidence

While the WolfBrown examines the intrinsic impacts of a single performance, this recent report investigates the broad social impacts of cultural activities for individuals. This report examines the relationship between four cultural activities (reading books, attending live performances, visiting art galleries and attending movie theatres) and social phenomena such as volunteering, donating, neighbourhood connections, sense of belonging and quality of life.

The data is drawn from Statistics Canada's General Social Survey of 2005. A total of 9,851 respondents answered the survey's cultural questions.

The report defines a cultural participant as anyone who read at least one book, attended at least one live performance, visited at least one art gallery, or saw at least one movie at a theatre in 2005. This is a low threshold of cultural participation. Many activities within these categories do not have explicit social goals. As such, their social impacts may be less than for those artistic activities that have an explicit social goal.

The report recognizes that there are many other factors that could play a significant role in the social indicators examined. Because of this, the report does not claim to be definitive. However, some statistics in the report do show a relationship between some cultural activities and positive social engagement.

Performing arts attendees do have positive indicators of social engagement. For example:

  • The percentage of performing arts attendees volunteering for a non-profit organization (48%) is much higher than the percentage of non-attendees (28%).
  • The percentage of performing arts attendees donating money or goods to a non-profit organization (88%) is much higher than the percentage of non-attendees (71%).
  • Seventy-three percent of performing arts attendees (compared with 67% of non-attendees) indicated that they had done a favour for a neighbour in the past month.
  • Fewer performing arts attendees than non-attendees feel trapped in a daily routine (33% of performing arts attendees compared with 38% of non-attendees).

Overall, given the mix of positive and neutral findings regarding performing arts attendees, the report finds mild evidence of a link between performing arts attendance and positive social engagement. It should be noted that the definition of the performing arts in the report is quite broad, including popular music, classical music, theatre, dance or opera.

Art gallery visitors have a stronger sense of social engagement than non-visitors for many social indicators. For example, the percentage of art gallery visitors volunteering for a non-profit organization (50%) is much higher than the percentage of non-visitors (31%). The percentage of art gallery visitors donating money or goods to a non-profit organization (87%) is much higher than the percentage of non-visitors (73%). Seventy-six percent of art gallery visitors (versus 67% of non-visitors) indicated that they had done a favour for a neighbour in the past month. Fifty-one percent of art gallery visitors have a very strong sense of belonging to Canada, compared with 45% of non-visitors. Fewer art gallery visitors than non-visitors feel trapped in a daily routine (30% of art gallery visitors compared with 38% of non-visitors).

Book readers also have a stronger sense of social engagement than non-readers for many social indicators. In particular, the percentage of book readers volunteering for a non-profit organization (42%) is much higher than the percentage of non-readers (25%). The percentage of book readers donating money or goods to a non-profit organization (82%) is much higher than the percentage of non-readers (66%). Seventy-one percent of book readers (compared with 65% of non-readers) indicated that they had done a favour for a neighbour in the past month. Forty-nine percent of book readers have a very strong sense of belonging to Canada, compared with 42% of non-readers. Book readers have a lower rate of workaholism than non-readers (22% of book readers compared with 31% of non-readers).

Given the mix of positive, neutral and negative findings regarding movie goers, there is very little evidence of a link between movie theatre attendance and positive social engagement.

Summary: 

This recent report investigates the broad social impacts of cultural activities for individuals. It examines the relationship between four cultural activities (reading books, attending live performances, visiting art galleries and attending movie theatres) and social phenomena such as volunteering, donating, neighbourhood connections, sense of belonging and quality of life.

Legacy ID (artUID): 
50454