New perspectives in the analysis of cultural participation and its limits

  1. Suárez Fernández, Sara
Supervised by:
  1. Juan Prieto Rodríguez Director
  2. María José Pérez Villadóniga Co-director

Defence university: Universidad de Oviedo

Fecha de defensa: 21 May 2020

  1. Plácido Rodríguez Guerrero Chair
  2. María José Suárez Fernández Secretary
  3. Victoria Ateca Amestoy Committee member
  4. Romilda Rizzo Committee member
  5. Luis César Herrero Prieto Committee member
  1. Economía

Type: Thesis

Teseo: 624738 DIALNET lock_openRUO editor


This thesis studies different aspects of cultural participation. The benefits of participation in the arts are numerous and achieving an adequate level of cultural capital is an important objective of nations, since it is a key resource in the development of better societies with higher social cohesion and higher participation in civic life. Moreover, the consumption of culture has also numerous positive externalities at an individual level, such as improving mental health or enhancing cognitive skills and, thus, earnings. This thesis examines the profile of cultural attendants and the particularities of non-attendance, identifying the most relevant barriers to cultural participation and to study how to boost cultural consumption overcoming those limits. First, we study the main reasons why individuals do not attend more often contemporary music concerts and the cinema. We find that lack of interest acts as the main barrier to cultural consumption. Although excessive pricing is also a barrier, our results suggest that economic restrictions are not the biggest problem. We suggest that it would be more useful to focus cultural policies on increasing the interest in cultural goods rather than on subsidizing prices. As lack of interest relates to the role of preferences and higher education is a key determinant in cultural consumption, long- term educational policies could be the answer to enhance cultural participation. Then, we analyze the important disparities found between the declared motives of cultural non-participation in two successive waves of the Survey on Cultural Habits and Practices in Spain to understand how a change of the cultural VAT affected cinema consumption. Before the tax change, the main declared reasons for not attending more frequently the movies were lack of interest, lack of time and high prices. After the tax change, high prices were declared as the main reason of non-participation by more than two thirds of the respondents. However, these complaints about prices were not consistent with cinema consumption, which remained stable before and after the VAT change. Focusing on the analysis of cinema participation, we find that, interestingly, answers to evaluative (subjective) questions probably are (un)intentionally biased, whereas answers about (objective) behavior are more reliable than those regarding evaluations or opinions. Since the demand for culture is determined by experience processes, in which people develop their taste for culture through consumption, the problem of lacking interest in culture is probably linked with education. To unravel how to overcome this barrier, we explore the particularities of education as a limit for cultural consumption. We analyze the effect of education on attendance to cinema, performing arts and visits to sites of cultural interest. We find that the effect of education changes across activities, being its marginal effect larger for highbrow activities than for popular culture. By contrast, when a certain level of education is given, higher income increases participation to the cinema more than to theaters or museums. Probably, this relates to one particularity of highbrow cultural consumption: it involves the comprehension of complex symbolic and aesthetic elements, and, in this sense, individuals’ ability to value and understand culture depends more on education than on income. Nevertheless, high prices (or low earnings) also discourage people from consuming more cultural contents. One possible solution to democratize culture could be to facilitate its access by broadcasting spectacles to audiences on the internet. In this line, we examine the relation between live and online consumption of theatre and musical performing arts. Our results point to two different profiles of consumers regarding the consumption channel (live and online), but also a complementarity between live and online consumption. Therefore, the online channel could be a valuable tool for spreading access to culture that might overcome some restrictions on live cultural participation, such as high prices and time constraints.