Why middle class people pursue art more than the wealthy

London, Sep 16 (IANS) It is not wealth or social status that inspires middle-class people to play music, paint or pursue art activities as amateurs or professionals. Instead, the love for art purely depends on their educational background, finds an interesting study.


According to Dr Aaron Reeves, sociologist at University of Oxford, arts participation, unlike arts consumption and cultural engagement generally, is not closely associated with either social class or social status.

“This result deviates from the expectation. Unexpectedly, those with higher incomes are less likely to be arts participants,” he said.

Of the 78,011 people surveyed for the study, 18 percent had taken part in painting or photography; nine percent in dance; 10 percent in music; two percent in drama or opera; six percent had written poetry, plays or fiction.

Only 22 percent had not done any artistic activities.

He found that having a higher income did not make arts participation more likely. Those earning over 30,000 pounds a year were less likely to take part than those earning less.

Social status also mattered little. Those in higher professional jobs were less likely to take part in the arts than those in lower professional jobs.

The clearest link with artistic activity was education. “The results show that it is educational attainment alone, and not social status, that is shaping the probability of being an arts participant,” Dr Reeves noted.

The researchers found that those with a degree were around four times more likely to take part in painting and photography, five times more likely to be involved in dance and in crafts and four times more likely to play a musical instrument than those with no educational qualification.

Those taking part in arts were more likely to be middle class, simply because they were more likely to be highly educated.

Dr Reeves said that results for arts participation were different from those for watching or listening to arts performances, where social class and status were strongly linked to higher rates of arts consumption.

Dr Reeves suggests two reasons for the link with education.

First, those with higher information processing capacity are more likely to enjoy highbrow cultural practices such as arts participation and be university graduates.

In short, university graduates are more likely to possess the cultural resources necessary for both arts consumption and arts participation.

“Second, universities make admissions decisions using information on extracurricular and cultural activities, increasing the likelihood that university graduates are culturally active,” he pointed out in a paper in the journal Sociology.

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