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Demographic Patterns in Canadians’ Performing Arts Participation

March 18, 202018 March 2020

Arts participation

Canada’s Performing Arts Alliance


Kelly Hill, Hill Strategies Research Inc.

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Predominantly based on Statistics Canada’s General Social Survey, this presentation provides key demographic findings related to performing arts and festival attendance. The General Social Survey was designed to represent all Canadians, not just cultural participants. The presentation notes that 68% of Canadians attended at least one performing arts or festival activity in 2016.

Among different demographic groups, performing arts and festival attendance is:

  • Slightly lower for immigrants (65%) than non-immigrants (69%). However, recent immigrants (between 2006 and 2016) have a somewhat higher performing arts and festival attendance rate (72%).
  • Equal for members of racialized groups and non-racialized people (68% each)
  • Similar for Indigenous (69%) and non-Indigenous people (68%)
  • Higher for women (71%) than men (65%)

Given the General Social Survey’s large sample size, “an intersectional analysis of performing arts attendance” is also provided. For example, racialized immigrants who came to Canada between 2006 and 2016 have a higher performing arts and festival attendance rate (69%) than racialized immigrants who arrived before 2006 (62%). However, these attendance rates are lower than that for racialized non-immigrants (75%).

The presentation breaks down performing arts attendance rates for each demographic group into theatre, cultural festivals, heritage or ethnic performances, classical music, and pop music. The presentation suggests that “content matters”, noting that “Indigenous, racialized, and immigrant Canadians [each] have higher attendance rates at ‘heritage or ethnic performances’ than other Canadians”.

The presentation also provides an overview of broader arts attendance statistics, showing that “arts attendance rates increase with education and income; are higher in larger urban centres; [and] decrease with age.”

Other data sources related to the benefits of and motivations for performing arts attendance are briefly summarized in the presentation, which also provides a chart with general demographic trends, indicating that “racialized, immigrant, and Indigenous people represent increasing shares of the population” between 1981 and 2036.

For its original audience of arts presenting organizations, the presentation concludes that “performing arts reach lots of Canadians. [But] if you’re not reaching many youth, Indigenous people, racialized people, and immigrants, think about your programming, marketing, and communications.”

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