History of change in the arts ecosystem

For our examination of the expansion of the nonprofit arts sector, we have continued to prioritize and review resources identified in our initial scan of the literature (shared in our September research update) as well as a few additional sources:

DiMaggio, P. J. (2006) Nonprofit organizations and the intersectoral division of labor in the arts. In W. W. Powell & Ri. Steinberg (Eds.), The nonprofit sector: A research handbook (2nd ed.). Yale University Press.

DiMaggio, P. J., & Anheier, H. K. (1990). The Sociology of Nonprofit Organizations and Sectors. Annual Review of Sociology, 16, 137–159.

Lowry, W. M. (Ed.). (1984). The Arts and Public Policy in the United States. The American Assembly.

Wyszomirski, M. (1999). Philanthropy and Culture: Patterns, context, and change. In Philanthropy and the Nonprofit Sector in a Changing America (pp. 461–479). Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press.

Wyszomirski, M. J. (2013). Shaping a triple-bottom line for nonprofit arts organizations: Micro-, macro-, and meta-policy influences. Cultural Trends, 22(3/4), 156–166. http://doi.org/10.1080/09548963.2013.817645

TV and wellbeing

For our next feature article following up on the findings from “Why Don’t They Come?,” we’ve been exploring the relationship between television viewing habits and wellbeing. Below is the latest draft of our internal report sharing findings from the literature reviewed thus far on this topic.

How good or bad is watching TV?

Is watching television associated with lower utility levels or life satisfaction than not watching television?

The evidence on whether television is good or bad is mixed and largely depends on what we think is most important for determining wellbeing. There is somewhat strong evidence to suggest that television is bad for physical health, depending on how credible we think the claim is that television causes obesity and other poor health outcomes, but more mixed evidence on whether it is bad for subjective wellbeing.

Evidence that television is bad for physical health:

  • Associations with a more sedentary lifestyle, which is in turn associated with health problems. The relationship between obesity and television in children is an area of particular concern in the literature.
  • Television may “crowd out” other, more social activities that are associated with higher life satisfaction
  • In some older people (according to a qualitative interview-based Dutch study with older Americans) television is a “compensation” strategy for development and growing older, meaning that it takes the place of other, more meaningful activities as a coping mechanism for losing loved ones and losing abilities to participate in other activities.
  • Television is associated with an increased risk of obesity and mortality not entirely explained by an increased tendency toward a sedentary lifestyle. Even among relatively healthy adults who meet the recommended level of daily physical activity, there is an increased tendency toward higher waist circumference and other indicators of poor health outcomes.

Evidence that television is not bad for life satisfaction and utility:

  • Some authors suggest that people use television as a point to socialize, even with changes in technology and habits related to watching television
  • Most of the interviewees in the Dutch qualitative study on selection and compensation reported that they selected watching television instead of using it as a compensation strategy to make up for things that they can no longer do.
  • In contrast to evidence showing that television displaces more social activity and thus causes lower life satisfaction, when considered as a watching television vs. not watching television binary, two papers showed that watching television leads to higher life satisfaction than not watching television. This might be related to a basic level of income or comfort associated with having a television vs. not having a television.

Why do people with lower incomes and education levels tend to watch more TV than people with higher incomes and education levels?

We found several studies that consider the impact of higher television viewing on health outcomes in subgroups with higher levels of poverty than the rest of the population. These studies did not theorize why people of lower incomes tend to watch more television, but we might be able to draw some logical conclusions based on their discussions.

  • People with lower incomes and less education are more likely to be unemployed and thus have more time to watch television
  • Watching television is relatively inexpensive and more easily available to people
  • Television doesn’t require advance planning, and thus might be more accessible to people who have more unpredictable schedules (like people who don’t know their work schedules far in advance)

With regard to the relationship between addiction and poverty, we found some strong agreement that television addiction exists, but little to suggest that it is tied to poverty. Several studies consider television, addiction, and its psychological implications, and the current consensus seems to be that television addiction does exist. One study found weak, not statistically significant evidence that less educated people showed more tendency to describing their television habits in a manner consistent with addiction to other substances. Further, these studies reference that people with one type of addiction are more likely to have other types of addictions. We could not find evidence or considerations of the magnitude of the problem of television addiction.

Do people with lower incomes and education levels watch different kinds of programming on TV than people with higher incomes and education levels? And does the type of programming make a difference with respect to how good or bad TV is for you?

We still can’t find any evidence on television type and its correlation with income or education level. We found one study that looked at how people justify the type of television they watch to themselves (in particular “bad” TV), which may vary by self-identified class. Another qualitative study considered how people make the choice to watch particular television programs, and found that childhood family and current household influences were strong determinants of what people choose to watch. If people are influenced by their parents’ television choices and if people at certain income levels tend to watch a genre of television, this might mean that those choices tend to carry on through generations.

The literature on how genre of television influence or are correlated with certain personality traits or behavior is a bit of a rabbit hole. For example, some types of television may create political biases, shape purchasing behavior, or increase aggression, depending on the type of television that people watch.

Since we know that low-SES people are more likely to watch television according to survey data, it is likely that they receive more of the negative impacts. There is a good portion of the literature devoted to how narrative techniques used in television are used to discuss race, class, and gender, and other literature devoted to how those discussions affect audiences. This literature is largely qualitative and discusses critical theory and theories of communication and how they relate to television.

Other literature suggests that it is likely that people are directly affected by what they watch on television and that it informs the way that they think about themselves. These studies draw on both empirical methods (public opinion polling, survey research, examining the effects of violent television on children’s behavior through direct observation), as well as critical theory about television and audience interpretation. According to Sonia Livingstone, author of several books and articles related to the effects of media consumption, “Psychologically it does not seem plausible that our assumptions, images, and knowledge of the world portrayed by television can be strictly separated from our assumptions, images, and knowledge of everyday life.”

Are people with different education/income levels more likely to derive different levels of utility from watching television?

We have found nothing to suggest that this might be the case, except for some evidence of a potential social desirability response in survey or interview responses among more educated people about television.

One study considered how increased hours spent watching television might exacerbate poor health outcomes for low income and some racial demographics, but did not find statistically significant evidence. Another way of thinking about differing impacts might be that since lower income people tend to watch more television, they are more at risk for poor health outcomes as a group.

How do the benefits or harms of watching television compare to those of attendance at arts events?

People who write about television and other activities seem to agree that relationship building, making connections within a community, and finding activities and work that are personally fulfilling are important components of meaningful activities. From what we’ve read about why people do or don’t attend arts events, it seems like people attend arts events do so because they fit all of those criteria (people like going with friends, go because they find them meaningful or enjoyable, and use them to feel connected to their communities). However, there is certainly some variation that underlies why and how people participate in arts events that might make attending arts events less beneficial for some people.

Television, on the other hand, probably fills some of these criteria for some people, but not for everyone. For example, in a study of elderly people on whether television is a choice among a set of meaningful events or whether they use television to take the place of events they can no longer participate in, some used it to compensate for losses and some selected it as a meaningful, fulfilling activity.

What makes poor and less-educated adults less likely to be interested in attending arts events, and should we be concerned about this lack of interest?

What do we know about why non-interested non-attendees are uninterested in attending arts events?

We looked at studies primarily from the Wallace Foundation explaining why groups of people systematically do not attend arts events, and found the following themes:

  • Their friends don’t go. If people don’t have friends to go with them or don’t feel included in the activities happening at the opera, they are less likely to attend
  • They feel excluded from arts organizations, or feel that they can’t relate to arts organizations’ content or productions
  • Less available arts education among lower income people might make lower income people less interested in attending arts events.

Does the greater propensity of low-SES people to watch television rather than attend arts events typically reflect a conscious choice, a lack of awareness, or something else? If a choice, what’s behind that choice?

From studies that consider how making choices influences watching television:

  • Some evidence to suggest that people watching television make a conscious choice to watch television from a set of meaningful activities, though not for everyone
  • Strong evidence that household factors, such as spousal preference, children’s preference, parents’ preference, and friends influence television viewing choices
  • Some evidence showing that people watch television because of social aspects related to discussion and shared viewing

While we could not find studies that explored the choice between television and arts events specifically, since television occupies a significant portion of time for Americans, it’s likely that some people are making the choice to watch television instead of attending an arts event, just as some are choosing to watch television instead of going grocery shopping.