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Social Capital and Cultural Participation: Spousal Influences on Attendance at Arts Events

Working Paper #32, Winter 2003

Craig Barton Upright

Empirical efforts to study the determinants of participation in the arts have demonstrated that adult attendance at arts events is influenced by adolescent exposure to the arts, educational attainment, and current income.  While many have illuminated the impact of family socialization and individual characteristics, they have neglected the ways in which people’s social relationships influence their adult participation in the arts.  This paper begins to redress this imbalance by focusing on the role of one crucial relationship—the tie between spouses—in shaping attendance at arts events.  The importance of social ties is demonstrated by the finding that spouse’s background has an impact on an individual’s arts participation comparable to one’s own characteristics and that this effect persists even net of one’s spouse’s own attendance.  Consistent with theories of a gendered division of cultural labor, men’s attendance is more strongly influenced by spousal characteristics than is women’s attendance.

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