The changing role of education as we move from popular to highbrow culture

  • Sara Suarez-Fernandez
  • Juan Prieto-RodriguezEmail author
  • Maria Jose Perez-Villadoniga
Original Article


Education is the socioeconomic variable that has the greatest impact on cultural participation. A higher level of education leads to greater interest and taste for culture increasing the demand of culture. But education can also indirectly affect cultural consumption because the higher the level of education, the higher the expected income and, therefore, the greater the cultural consumption. In this paper, we analyze the effect of education on cultural consumption once the impact of income is controlled for. Using information on attendance to cinema, performing arts and visits to sites of cultural interest, we analyze how the effect of education changes between these activities. To do so, we estimate a Zero Inflated Ordered Probit using the 2006 and 2015 Spanish modules of the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions. We find that the effect of education varies between activities, being its marginal effect more relevant for highbrow activities than for popular culture. On the contrary, given a certain level of education, an increase in income will bring more people to the cinema than to theaters or museums. This result is consistent with the idea that highbrow cultural consumption involves the comprehension of more complex symbolic elements, and individuals’ decoding abilities depend more on education than on income.


Cultural participation Education Cinema Performing arts Museums 

JEL Classification




This study received funding from Government of Spain (Projects ECO2016-76506-C4-1-R and ECO2017-86402-C2-1-R) and the Regional Government of the Principality of Asturias (Severo Ochoa programme). We are especially grateful to Obra Social Fundación la Caixa that generously funded the working paper that was the beginning of this research. The usual disclaimer applies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of OviedoOviedoSpain

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