The following end notes accompany our article, “Are The Arts The Answer to Our TV Obsession?” published on February 22, 2016:

(1) What we mean when we say “watching TV”
When we talk about hours of television watched, we’re talking about self-reported hours; in other words, the amount of time an individual themselves assesses they watch TV, regardless of whether they’re fully focused on the program or it’s on in the background.

(2) On TV and kids’ health
Although this article focuses on adults, it’s worth noting that the health concerns about TV and its impact on physical health extend, of course, to children. One study finds that high-school-aged children who watch more than 3 to 4 hours of television per day are 36% more likely to report eating less than five fruits or vegetables per day, and 56% more likely to be overweight than their peers who watch less than two hours daily. Another suggests that low-income parents in particular may face stressors related to chronic financial hardship, like poor mental health or food insecurity, and that these stressors may influence their views of the importance of restricting screen time. This, in turn, may impact their children’s screen usage.

(3) On our regression analysis
The General Social Survey (GSS) is a representative, national survey covering attitudinal, social, and demographic topics in the United States. In 2012, the GSS included a module asking respondents questions about their cultural participation. As we began our investigation, we wondered how arts attendance and television viewing would predict subjective wellbeing. We used data from the General Social Survey to descriptively explore the following questions:

  1. Holding income, condition of health, education level, gender, age, job satisfaction, and social engagements with friends and family constant, how does arts attendance and television predict wellbeing?
  2. Using these same covariates, is there a difference in how television and arts attendance predicts wellbeing for respondents at different income quartiles?

We used logistic regression analysis to descriptively explore these questions, the results of which are linked here for all income levels and here for income quartiles. Our dependent variable was respondents’ determination of how satisfied they are with their lives in response to the prompt below, where Strongly Disagree, Disagree, and Neither Agree nor Disagree were considered unsatisfied and Agree or Strongly Agree were considered satisfied.

(Please tell me on a scale of 1 to 5 how much you agree or
disagree with the following statements about your life. 1 means
strongly disagree and 5 means strongly agree.)

I am satisfied with my life.

Covariates included respondents’ assessment of their own health, household income level, age, gender, how often the respondent interacts with friends and relatives, job satisfaction, and education level. Note that because health was included as a control, the regression analysis measures the effect of TV on life satisfaction independent of its effects on health. However, since health does have a strong relationship to life satisfaction on its own, if TV makes people less healthy, it will presumably also make them less satisfied with their life.

(4) On our anecdotal interviews
In order to hear the stories and better understand the viewing choices of low-SES adults who watch large amounts of television, Createquity interviewed nine individuals who self-identified as not having graduated college and reported watching at least five hours of TV a day. We recruited interviewees primarily by posting ads on craigslist in large cities like Washington D.C., Los Angeles, and Chicago, as well as in cities and small towns throughout the United States. . Interviewees were paid a small honorarium for their time. All respondents were women, and most had children at home. This portion of the investigation had two goals: 1) to add nuance and resonance to our findings from the literature review; and 2) to explore topics that were not addressed directly in the published research, such as reasoning behind viewing choices and the relationship between television viewing and arts participation.


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