In 2006 the proportion of adult inhabitants in Spain that had recently visited museums, galleries or historical sites amounted to 43 percent. This proportion is similar to that of other large European countries, but is lower than in the Nordic ones. Estimations based on a large and internationally comparable dataset reveal that cultural participation in Spain is significantly higher when persons belong to higher social classes, defined by income, education or occupation. This association coincides with what is found for most other European countries, except the Nordic ones, where social class is of less importance for cultural participation. Women consume more culture than men, while non-EU nationals and older persons show less interest in these activities.
Cultural participation is not only a signal of social status and group identity, (Bourdieu, 1984) but also an intensive form of social participation. A key finding of the literature is that cultural participation is highest for higher social class positions, as defined by income, education and occupations (O’Hagan, 2016). For instance, based on representative data for Spain in 2015 (Table 1), the percentage of persons visiting cultural sites ranges between 30 per cent for highly educated persons and 4 per cent among persons with primary or no education. Similarly, among the 20 percent highest income earners, participation is 32 percent, whereas that of the lowest 20 percent earners is 6 percent. However, there are large differences in cultural participation across European countries. Generally, participation rates are highest in the Nordic countries and lowest in South and East European countries.
This study investigates these issues in the Spanish context and investigates the extent to which demographic and socioeconomic characteristics influence the decision to visit and the number of visits to museums, galleries, historical sites, and archaeological sites (henceforth “museums and historical sites”). By use of an internationally comparable data set on cultural participation, the 2006 ad-hoc module of the EU Survey of Income and Living Conditions (SILC), we provide comparison across countries.
Spain is an interesting country case in which to study the characteristics of cultural participation. It is a culturally rich destination with a long tradition. The number of UNESCO world heritage sites is second after Italy. However, public expenditures on cultural services have been significantly reduced, particularly after the economic and financial crisis, with larger cuts than in any other EU country (Eurostat, 2015). The resulting challenges mean there is an increased need to identify the socioeconomic and demographic characteristics of visitors to museums and historical sites in order to attract new audiences and inform decision makers. This study contributes to the growing literature on the determinants of cultural participation. It complements previous work for Spain by using internationally comparable data (Muñiz, Rodríguez, & Suárez, 2017; Prieto-Rodríguez & Fernández-Blanco, 2000; Sintas & Álvarez, 2002, 2004).
2. Who visits museums and historical sites?
Following the literature on cultural stratification, we hypothesize that the decision to visit and the frequency of visits to historical monuments, museums, art galleries, or archaeological sites is the result of respondents’ demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. We expect that the higher an individual’s education level, household income, and occupational class, the more likely he or she is to frequently visit museums and historical sites. The hypothesized effect of age on cultural participation is not clear-cut; frequency of visits may increase with age, but the association may not be directly related. Finally, we expect that women will report more visits to museums and historical sites compared to men.
The data used to estimate the determining factors of museum and historical site visits comes from the cultural and social participation module of the European Union SILC. Carried out in the EU-27 countries in 2006 (Eurostat, 2010)1, this survey is a nationally representative sample of households and individuals.
The survey provides information on whether or not individuals visited museums, galleries, historical monuments, and archaeological sites. If a visit was reported, then data on their frequency of visits during the 12-month period prior to the second quarter of the survey year was gathered (2006). The question includes five response categories from no visits in the given year to 13 or more visits.
3. Key findings on cultural participation in Spain
In Spain the percentage of adults (aged over 16) that had visited museums, galleries and historical sites during the past 12 months in 2006 was 43 percent (Figure 1).
This is slightly higher than the corresponding figure for the EU-27 countries (plus Iceland) which was 39 percent and similar to other large European countries (45 percent). Participation rates are highest in the Nordic countries (59 percent). When distinguished by number of visits, about 25 percent of the Spanish population aged 16 or more reported 1-3 visits, 10 percent reported between 4-6 visits, and about four percent each for the remaining categories (7-12, 13 or more visits). The significant differences in cultural participation between Spain and this group of EU countries remain when individual and household factors are taken into account (Falk and Katz-Gerro, 2016).
Estimation results show that the probability and frequency of visits to museums and historical sites depend significantly on household income, education, age category, marital status, being born in a non-EU country, labour market status, household size, and place of residence (Falk & Katz-Gerro, 2016). In particular, cultural visits increase with household income and education for all the categories. With respect to age, we find that persons older 64 years of age and to a lesser extent those aged between 25 and 34 have a lower propensity for cultural visits and frequency thereof. Women have a significantly higher probability of cultural visits. This is consistent with evidence for other large EU countries. People born in a non-EU country have a lower probability of visiting cultural sites. Turning to the effects of labor market status, we find that the unemployed and people with disabilities exhibit lower probabilities of cultural visits while students show significantly higher probabilities of cultural visits. Household size has a negative effect on cultural participation, reflecting the fact that the opportunity costs of visiting cultural sites rise quickly with household size.
The effects for level of education, age, income, and some labor market status variables are quite large. For instance, having a college or university degree reduces the probability of no visits by 33 percentage points compared with less educated persons. An increase in household income (adjusted for household size) by 10 percent (from €8,200 to €9,300) decreases the probability of non-attendance by one percentage point, and increases the probability of cultural visits 1-3 times per year by 0.4 percentage points.
For occasional visitors (1-3 visits) we find that the dependence of cultural participation on income and education is similar to other large European countries but higher than in the Nordic countries. For frequent visitors (4-6, 7-12 and 12 plus visits) the role of income and education is no different from those in other European countries or in the Nordic countries.
When higher social class is measured by occupations, in addition to income and education, we find that cultural participation increases with higher occupational status (Falk & Katz-Gerro, 2016). Here results are limited to employed persons. In particular, professionals and managers are significantly more likely to visit museums and historical sites when household income and education are similar. Among the professional occupations, business, social science, writing, and creative or performance art occupations show the highest participation in cultural visits. This is similar to findings for other large European countries. In contrast, lower skilled occupations are less likely to visit museums and historical sites. This largely holds true for all EU countries and is not specific for Spain.
This study has investigated the characteristics of Spanish visitors to museums, art galleries, historical sites, and archaeological sites. Results show that household income (adjusted for size), education and occupation class are the main determinants of cultural participation. The dependence of cultural participation on education and income is similar to other large European countries but higher than in the Nordic countries. However, this only holds true for occasional visitors. For frequent goers the role of income and education for cultural participation does not differ much between Spain and the other European countries. Furthermore, cultural participation is higher for women and lower for non-EU nationals and older persons.
These findings may provide information for cultural and arts managers, urban planners, and museum and tourism marketing research, together with those aiming to encourage disadvantaged groups to participate in the arts. For private museums and art galleries, meanwhile, knowledge of visitors’ characteristics is of great value in shaping promotions and pricing.
From a comparative perspective our second main conclusion is that the probability of museum and historical site visits is lower in Spain compared to the Nordic countries and the UK, similar to that of Germany, France, and the Netherlands, and higher than other south European countries. These cross country differences remain significant when individual and household characteristics are taken into account. One possible interpretation of these findings is that the differences in the probability of visits to cultural sites across the EU countries are associated with national differences in cultural policies and in per capita government expenditure meant to encourage visits to museums and historical sites.
The lower rate of cultural participation in Spain as compared to the Nordic countries suggests that saturation of the demand for cultural goods has not yet been reached and the question is how to stimulate cultural participation. One factor is additional public expenditures on cultural services. In Spain, average public expenditures on culture per capita were 135 euros in 2006 (according to the Household Budget Survey) and thus lower than in the group of large European countries (Source: Eurostat, 2010). Furthermore, total general government expenditure on cultural sites declined strongly in recent years from 384 million in 2006 to 261 million euros in 2014 (Table 2). The decline in public spending for cultural sites goes hand in hand with the drop in private cultural spending. Between 2006 and 2015 cultural participation decreased from 18 to 15 per cent (Table 1).
In contrast, several other European countries such as Germany and the Nordic countries increased their spending on cultural services (Source: Eurostat, 2015). Thus, raising the level of public spending on cultural services is one priority of policymakers. Furthermore, admission fees also impact cultural participation. Admission fees in Europe vary widely ranging from free entrance policies in the UK and in some Nordic countries to very high admission fees in Italy and Greece. In Spain, admission fees for major museums (e.g., Museo Nacional del Prado) are in the medium range. However, it is not clear to whether or not lower ticket prices stimulate cultural participation.
Bourdieu, P. (1984): Distinction: a social critique of the judgment of taste, London: Routledge.
Eurostat (2010): EU-SILC module 2006 on social participation. Assessment of the implementation, Luxembourg.
Eurostat (2015): Government expenditure by function according to the Classification of the Functions of Government.
Falk, M., and T. Katz-Gerro (2016): “Cultural participation in Europe: can we identify common determinants?”, Journal of Cultural Economics, 40(2).
Muñiz, C., P. Rodríguez, and M.J. Suárez (2017): “Participation in cultural activities: specification issues”, Journal of Cultural Economics, 41(1).
O’Hagan, J. W. (2016): “Attendance at publicly-funded arts events. Are the highly variable attendance rates by educational level a cause for concern?”, Social Observatory of “la Caixa”.
Prieto-Rodríguez, J., and V. Fernández-Blanco (2000): “Are popular and classical music listeners the same people?”, Journal of Cultural Economics, 24(2).
Sintas, J.L., and E. García-Álvarez (2004): “Omnivore versus univore consumption and its symbolic properties: evidence from Spaniards’ performing arts attendance”, Poetics, 32(6).
Sintas, J.L., and E. García-Álvarez (2002): “The consumption of cultural products: an analysis of the Spanish social space”, Journal of Cultural Economics, 26(2).
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