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

Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. From a sociological perspective, according to Bourdieu (1986), education contributes both to the embodied state and the institutionalized state of cultural capital. However, “it should be noted that the term ‘cultural capital’ is used in other disciplines to mean something different from its interpretation in economics. In sociology, the term is used, following Pierre Bourdieu, to mean an individual’s competence in high status culture. In economic terms, this characteristic of people can be construed as an aspect of their human capital” (Throsby 2003).

  2. Since its publication, Becker’s (1965) approach of household production has been applied to model many decisions within the household.

  3. For a general survey on other determinants of cultural participation see, for instance, Seaman (2006).

  4. Some issues about the comparability between data from international EU-SILC are raised by O’Hagan (2017).

  5. Compared to other surveys, the EU-SILC is the most suitable for our purpose as it contains information on both education and income (Ateca-Amestoy and Villarroya 2017).

  6. In the 2006 wave, the original information regarding attendance is more disaggregated, defining 5 levels of attendance: None, 1–3 times, 4–6 times, 7–12 times and more than 12 times. We pool the last three groups in order to be consistent with the 2015 classification.

  7. If available data on attendance were a count variable, the appropriate model would be a Zero Inflated Negative Binomal (ZINB) model (see Ateca-Amestoy 2008). Examples of ZIOP models used to analyze cultural consumption include Downward et al. (2011) for modeling sports participation and Borowiecki and Prieto-Rodriguez (2015) for video games playing.

  8. From a more sociological point of view, Yaish and Katz-Gerro (2010) discuss the different role of tastes and restrictions in shaping cultural participation suggesting that “participation is constrained to a larger degree by financial resources than by tastes and to a lesser degree by cultural resources […] tastes are shaped to a greater degree than participation by socialization processes and through the habitus and, to a lesser degree, by financial resources”.

  9. According to Figueiredo et al. (2015), on average for Portugal, Spain and Italy, only 8.3 percent of males are employed at Education, Humanities & Arts while 23.2 percent of females work in these occupations.

  10. We would like to thank an anonymous referee for pointing us in this direction.

  11. This could be related to the appearance and development of close substitutes such as Netflix, HBO or Amazon Prime Video to the traditional consumption of cinema at movie theaters.

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Acknowledgements

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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Correspondence to Juan Prieto-Rodriguez.

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Suarez-Fernandez, S., Prieto-Rodriguez, J. & Perez-Villadoniga, M.J. The changing role of education as we move from popular to highbrow culture. J Cult Econ 44, 189–212 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10824-019-09355-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10824-019-09355-2

Keywords

  • Cultural participation
  • Education
  • Cinema
  • Performing arts
  • Museums

JEL Classification

  • Z11