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Arts and Cultural Activities and Happiness: Evidence from Korea


The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between attending arts and cultural activities and individual happiness. We classify arts and cultural activities into four categories according to their characteristics: visual arts, performing arts, movies, and sporting events. Our results show that arts and cultural activities have a positive relationship with individual happiness. More specifically, the coefficient for attending performing arts is the highest, and the fall in marginal utility of participation is the lowest for movies. In addition, the benefit from arts and cultural activities is greater in the low-income group than in the high-income group; however, visual arts activities are statistically significant in the high-income group. Through the interaction between household types and cultural activities, we find that the utility increments for performing arts and movies occur in the high-income group. Our results can provide insight for government organizations involved in the promotion of the arts and cultural activities.

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  1. According to the “2018 World Happiness Report” by the UN, Koreans’ life satisfaction ranked 57th out of 156 countries, and the “2018 Better Life Index” released by the OECD ranked Korea as the 30th out of 38 countries.

  2. The 12 areas are as follows: population, economy, urban development and housing, culture, tourism, welfare, female and family, environment, transportation, information and knowledge, disaster and safety, and values and consciousness.

  3. A cognitive aspect is an important component of happiness and may require research methods such as a brainwave signal measurement. However, it is practically difficult to develop physiological or neurobiological indicators in empirical analysis (Frey and Stutzer 2010).

  4. While multicollinearity may be suspected due to our interaction terms, the mean VIF of Models 4 and 5 is 2.9 and 2.4, respectively, indicating that our analytical model does not contain multicollinearity.

  5. The “culture voucher project,” organized by the Korean government, is one of the national supporting projects, and its aim is to enhance the quality of life for the underprivileged by supporting culture, the arts, sports, and tourism.

  6. In 2018, the national average issuance rate of culture vouchers is 92.04%, and the national average utilization rate is 66.04%. In case of Seoul, the issuance rate is higher, but the utilization rate is lower than the national average.

  7. “Docent” is a guide for visitors to assist them in understanding the exhibits in galleries and museums and requires a certain education.


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Correspondence to Shik Heo.

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Table 4 Arts and cultural activities included in the survey and categorization
Table 5 Standard median income by number of household members (unit: won)
Table 6 Cross tabulation of household income and number of household members

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Lee, H., Heo, S. Arts and Cultural Activities and Happiness: Evidence from Korea. Applied Research Quality Life 16, 1637–1651 (2021).

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  • Arts and cultural activities
  • Happiness
  • Subjective well-being
  • Life satisfaction
  • Cultural economics