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SMU Study: Both the Poor and the Rich Enjoy the Arts

Last year Congressman Paul Ryan’s House Budget Committee asserted that the arts are for wealthy Americans, not the poor, going so far as to call National Endowment for the Arts funding “a wealth transfer from poorer to wealthier citizens.”

But the findings of a study released today by SMU’s National Center for Arts Research refute that notion. From the summary:

When looking across all arts organizations and their resident communities, there is no statistically significant relationship between total physical attendance and median household income, nor is there a significant relationship between free attendance and median household income. Since no relationship was found for median income and attendance, the extremes of the income spectrum (poverty and wealth) were analyzed for their relationships to attendance. As shown in Chart 2, there is a positive correlation between attendance at local arts organizations and the percentage of households below the poverty line; as the percentage of households below the poverty line increases, an increase in attendance at local arts organization is observed. We observe a similar positive relationship between attendance and the percentage of households with incomes greater than $200,000. Thus, the evidence indicates that arts organizations serve diverse audiences, with the poor and the wealthy benefitting from the arts more or less equally.

Somebody tell Jim Schutze.