Feder, Tal: Does access to art promote cultural inequality? Evidence from Europe

Access is considered to be a panacea for inequality in many policy fields and especially in the case of cultural policies where the promotion of access is often considered a main policy goal. Previous literature studied access to art and culture, but it was seldom linked empirically to cultural inequality patterns. This paper studies patterns of inequality in arts consumption in Europe, their association with access barriers and the extent by which access to art and culture has a moderating effect on cultural inequality.  I use data from the Eurobarometer survey 2013 that contains questions about the frequency of cultural consumption and consumption barriers of different cultural activities. The Eurobarometer data contains more than 27 thousand respondents in 28 European countries. I compute Gini coefficients of cultural consumption for each country and each consumption item and run beta regressions to estimate the effect of cultural access barriers on cultural inequality. The data depict a picture of cultural inequality in European countries that shows that countries sharing similar geopolitical characteristics also share similar patterns of cultural inequality. The patterns of cultural inequality differ for consumption items dependent on the specific characteristics of the type of art consumed. The results of the analyses show that different cultural consumption items behave differently with regard to the effect of barriers to access on inequality. For popular cultural consumption items, higher levels of access are linked with a lower level of inequality. However, for highbrow cultural consumption items, the results suggest a different mechanism where higher levels of access are linked with more cultural inequality. These results have policy implications for planning arts policy that aims at promoting access to art.