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Publication Detail
Who engages in the arts in the United States? A comparison of several types of engagement using data from The General Social Survey
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Authors:
    Bone JK, Bu F, Fluharty ME, Paul E, Sonke JK, Fancourt D
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  • Journal:
    BMC Public Health
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  • Issue:
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  • Keywords:
    Arts, Culture, Health, Social gradient, United States, Wellbeing
  • Notes:
    This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made.
BACKGROUND: Engaging in the arts is a health-related behavior that may be influenced by social inequalities. While it is generally accepted that there is a social gradient in traditional arts and cultural activities, such as attending classical music performances and museums, previous studies of arts engagement in the US have not adequately investigated whether similar demographic and socioeconomic factors are related to other forms of arts engagement. METHODS: Using cross-sectional data from the General Social Survey (GSS) in the US, we examined which demographic, socioeconomic, residential, and health factors were associated with attendance at arts events, participation in arts activities, membership of creative groups, and being interested in (but not attending) arts events. We combined data from 1993 to 2016 in four analytical samples with a sample size of 8684 for arts events, 4372 for arts activities, 4268 for creative groups, and 2061 for interested non-attendees. Data were analysed using logistic regression. RESULTS: More education was associated with increased levels of all types of arts engagement. Parental education demonstrated a similar association. Being female, compared to male, was also consistently associated with higher levels of engagement. Attendance at arts events was lower in participants with lower income and social class, poorer health, and those living in less urban areas. However, these factors were not associated with participation in arts activities or creative groups or being an interested non-attendee. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, we found evidence for a social gradient in attendance at arts events, which was not as pronounced in participation in arts activities or creative groups or interest in arts events. Given the many benefits of engagement in the arts for education, health, and wider welfare, our findings demonstrate the importance of identifying factors to reduce barriers to participation in the arts across all groups in society.
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