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Canadian Index of Wellbeing

October 1, 20101 October 2010

Arts attendance, participation and public perception

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The Canadian Index of Wellbeing aims to “create a single, composite index for measuring the wellbeing of Canadians that serves as an alternative to traditional and economic-based measures such as the Gross Domestic Product. The index has eight domains, including “leisure and culture”.

The leisure and culture domain, which is seen to “make significant contributions to the wellbeing of Canadians and Canadian communities”, captures eight indicators related to participation in leisure and culture activities. Five of the eight leisure and culture indicators relate to the arts, culture and heritage, at least in part: time spent on arts and culture activities; volunteering for culture and recreation organizations; average attendance at each performing arts event; average visitation per national park and historic site; and the percentage of total household expenditures relating to culture and recreation.

The index tracks these indicators back to 1994, and the index was set to 100 in that year. Overall, the leisure and culture portion of the index decreased in the early 2000s, reaching its lowest point in 2004 (94.3). The leisure and culture portion of the index subsequently rebounded somewhat, reaching 98.2 in 2008. In comparison, the overall Canadian Index of Wellbeing reached 114.1 in 2008, and the Gross Domestic Product (expressed as an index) was 133 in 2008.

Many of the leisure and culture indicators are not available on a yearly basis. Of the 16 years of the index, some of the indicators have only three or four data points. In this situation, the index imputes the values for the non-measured years.

Index values in recent years should be viewed with considerable caution. The most recent leisure and culture indicators are often at least a few years old (i.e., dating back to 2005 or 2006). In this situation, the most recent measured value is maintained for an indicator. This means that recent years’ index values are not truly up-to-date. In the case of leisure and culture, this also means that the one value that is available and up-to-date (average visits at national parks and historic sites) dictates recent changes in the leisure and culture portion of the index.

Noting that there is strong interest in also capturing public perceptions of leisure and culture, the study indicates that there is a “need for a dedicated national survey on leisure and culture that incorporates more comprehensive and robust measures of participation and perception”.

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