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Cultural consumption: a question of taste or of price?

Juan Prieto Rodríguez, María José Pérez Villadóniga and Sara Suárez Fernández, University of Oviedo
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Education is the factor that most influences cultural consumption. Directly, because the higher the level of education, the greater the interest in culture. And indirectly, because the higher the level of education, the greater the income, and therefore, the greater the cultural consumption. The relevance of the different barriers to cultural consumption depends on the activity under consideration.
Key points
  • 1
       Lack of interest in the main reason for not attending live shows and places of cultural interest, while lack of income is the main reason for not going to the cinema.
  • 2
       In the case of live shows and visits to places of cultural interest, major polarisation occurs between those who never attend and those who attend regularly.
  • 3
       Going to the cinema shows a different pattern, with less polarisation, which is probably due to a greater interest in cinema among the population.
  • 4
       In addition, it is in cinema where the age effect is greatest: if we compare people under 30 with people over 65, the latter have a probability ten times higher of never attending.
  • 5
       Given the high proportion of individuals who state they have not participated in cultural activities, it is important to classify them into two groups: those who never participate and those who do not participate but could have done so if a particular circumstance had been different.
  • 6
       These two groups are very different and so the effectiveness of cultural policies will be different for each of them.
Average annual attendance by income and education level
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The graph shows the relationship between the equivalised income of each household member and annual attendance at cultural activities, differentiating by education level.

Two things are confirmed: (1) that independently of income, education has a positive effect on attendance at cultural activities and (2) that the effect of income on cultural consumption is more significant for higher education levels (secondary education and above).

How could we intervene to eliminate barriers to cultural participation?
  • To reduce the importance of economic restrictions a fiscal policy could be designed that includes a reduction of the indirect tax on cultural assets. The drop in prices would lead to a direct increase in cultural demand.
  • However, a fiscal reform of this type would have regressive effects, by benefiting to a greater extent individuals with a higher income.
  • If the aim is to tackle the problem represented by lack of interest, an early cultural education is important to develop the population’s interest and artistic tastes.
  • In this case, the effects would only be noted in the long term but would be much more stable.

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