Individual Participation and Community Arts Groups: A Quantitative Analysis of Philadelphia

Document Type

Working Paper




This paper presents SIAP's first attempt to develop methods to measure the non-economic impact of the arts. The best data available on individual participation--periodic surveys of public participation in the arts by the National Endowment for the Arts--provided a wealth of data on individual behavior and attitude, but the few attempts to link these data to larger social contexts focused on the economics of arts consumption. This paper uses the public participation data for one city--Philadelphia. Information on the arts and cultural behavior of a sample of 600 adults in 1992 was linked with databases on cultural groups in the city to examine the role of community context on arts behavior. The findings were startling. Simple information on the cultural environment in which individuals live was more powerful than traditional socio-economic variables like income and education in predicting participation in the arts. These findings, by challenging the narrow economistic perspectives that have dominated the debate on arts and culture in the city, suggest that we need a broader and more fine-grained appreciation of the role of urban arts and their social impact.


Individual Participation and Community Arts Groups: A Quantitative Analysis of Philadelphia, SIAP Working Paper #1 (October 1994), was produced as part of a summer research project with support by the Penn School of Social Work and in collaboration with the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance. The study used data from two sources: the Philadelphia area sample of the 1992 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (National Endowment for the Arts) and a secondary sample based on a local survey of minority adults conducted by Abt Associates under contract with the NEA in 1992.



Date Posted: 23 April 2017