Culture statistics - cultural participation by socioeconomic background
Data extracted in November 2017
No planned article update since data are based on an ad-hoc module
Almost two thirds of the EU population took part in at least one cultural activity in 2015.
Cultural participation has a significant impact on people’s quality of life : it contributes greatly to their well-being and boosts their sense of belonging to society. As a statistical domain, it is an essential dimension of the European framework for culture statistics.
This article follows on from the analysis of cultural participation data that began with the article Culture statistics - frequency and obstacles in participation. It is based on the results of the 2015 ad hoc module on social and cultural participation, part of the European Union’s survey on income and living conditions (EU-SILC).
The article presents some interesting findings about the impact of different socioeconomic characteristics (gender, age, educational attainment, income, degree of urbanisation and country of birth) on people’s involvement in cultural activities. The cultural activities covered here include going to the cinema, attending live performances and visiting cultural sites. They are analysed separately and as an aggregate (participation in any of three activities). Even though data show a clear impact of some variables on cultural participation, the effect size varies considerably across countries.
Almost two thirds of the EU people took part in at least one cultural activity in 2015
In 2015, 64 % of EU population aged 16 and over had been to the cinema, a live performance (theatre, concert etc.) or a cultural site (museum, historical monument, art gallery) in the previous 12 months (see Table 1). Looking at the three activities separately, 46 % of people had been to the cinema, 43 % had attended live performances and 43 % had visited cultural sites.
In 23 EU Members States, the participation rate in at least one of three cultural activities was above 50 %. In the Nordic Member States and the Netherlands the figure was higher than 80 %. At the other end of the scale, in Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania the rate of cultural participation was a little lower than 40 %.
Cultural participation and age
In 2015, around 80 % of people aged 65-74 in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands took part in at least one cultural activity
Across the EU, 83 % of young people aged 16 to 29 had participated in at least one cultural activity in the previous 12 months, as against 53 % of people aged 65 to 74 (see Figure 1).
With the exception of Bulgaria and Romania, where rates were around 50 %, cultural participation among young people in all EU Member States was high, ranging from 71 % in Croatia to 96 % in Denmark. On the other hand, participation among people aged 65-74 was much more scattered and ranged from 11 % in Bulgaria and Romania to 80 % in Denmark.
A wide ‘generations gap’ between young and older people’s cultural participation is apparent in several countries. In Slovakia, Lithuania, Cyprus, Malta, Hungary, Poland and Italy the participation rates were at least twice as high among people aged 16 to 29 than among those aged 65 to 74. In Greece, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria they were at least three times higher. This ‘generations gap’ tends to tally strongly with lower participation among older people. On the other hand, in Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands the gap was relatively small (not more than 18 percentage points).
As cultural participation patterns among older people vary a lot between countries, it is interesting to see which cultural activity they prefer (see Figure 2). Across the EU, visiting cultural sites appeared to be the most attractive for people aged 65-74 (43 %), followed by live performances (38 %). In contrast, only 27 % of Europeans in this age group had been to the cinema; in Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania this share did not exceed 5 %.
Figure 2 illustrates also the rather large variations in older people’s preferences within some countries. In Austria, Slovenia, Finland and Latvia, for instance, there is at least 30 percentage points difference between the share of people aged 65 to 74 attending live performances and that of people in this age group going to the cinema.
Cultural participation by gender
Women seem to be a little more interested than men in going to live performances and cultural sites
In the EU as a whole and in seven EU Member States, cultural participation rates (in at least one activity) for women and men were very similar. In most countries the discrepancy (in one or other direction) did not reach more than 6 percentage points (see Table 2).
Analysing the activities separately, live performances attracted more women than men in all EU Member States except Portugal and Romania. The gap was the highest (over 10 percentage points) in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Slovakia and Finland.
Similarly, as concerns cultural sites, women visited them more frequently than men. Only in Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania the tendency was opposite.
The smallest gender discrepancies were in cinema attendance, with 22 countries registering at most around a 2 percentage points difference between participation rates of women and men.
Cultural participation by educational attainment level
In 2015, in the EU as a whole people with high educational attainment were more than twice as likely to take part in cultural activities as people with low education
Figure 3 clearly shows that education has a significant impact on cultural participation. In 10 Member States, more than 90 % of people with high (tertiary) educational attainment attended cultural activities. In all EU countries - except Bulgaria and Romania - this percentage did not fall below 70 %.
In contrast, people with low educational attainment (at most low secondary education completed) participated the least in cultural activities, the EU average being just 42 %. But the participation patterns differed a lot across countries and varied from 11 % in Bulgaria to 76 % in Denmark.
The participation rates observed for people with high educational attainment level were five times higher than those of people with low educational attainment in Bulgaria and Croatia, four times in Romania and three times in Greece and Hungary. People with a medium level of educational attainment were closer to people with a higher level in their cultural participation patterns in more than half of EU countries, the gap being smaller than 10 percentage points in Denmark, Sweden, Portugal and Malta. In general, the differences in cultural participation by educational attainment were more visible in those countries which reported weak cultural participation among people with low educational attainment.
Table 3 shows cultural participation rates among people with low educational attainment separately for each cultural activity. Across the EU as a whole 28 % of this group had been to the cinema in 2015, 25% had watched a live performance and 24 % had visited a cultural site. Denmark and Sweden were the only countries in which all activities attracted more than 40% of people with a low educational attainment. The cinema was the most popular in 10 EU countries (and especially in Denmark and Germany). Live performances came top in 13 EU countries, and were far ahead of the other two cultural activities in Lithuania and Portugal. Finland boasted the highest rate of attendance at live performances among people from this group (50 %). Cultural sites ranked top cultural activity in only two member States: Hungary and Sweden.
Cultural participation by income
95 % of people with the highest incomes in Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands had participated in a cultural activity
Cultural participation of people analysed in relation to their income shows a similar pattern to that observed when looking on educational attainment: the higher the income level, the higher the participation. Figure 4 shows that nearly twice as many people with fifth quintile incomes (the highest) had participated in cultural activities than people with first quintile incomes (the lowest). In nine EU countries at least 90 % of people with high income had been to the cinema, a live performance or a cultural site at least once in the previous 12 months. But in Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia, this percentage did not exceeded 50 %.
As for people with low educational attainment, cultural participation rates among people with low income varied hugely, from 7 % in Bulgaria to 76 % in Denmark. In Denmark, Finland and Sweden, the differences in participation rates between people with high income and those with low one were the smallest (around 20 percentage points). Countries with the largest differences in participation by income group (8 times in Bulgaria and 4 times in Croatia and Romania) also had the lowest participation rates among people with low income.
Europeans with the lowest incomes tend to prefer to go to the cinema; the wealthiest are more attracted by cultural sites
Of the three cultural activities, cinema and live performances appeared to attract more people with lowest incomes. Table 4 shows that almost a third of people with the lowest incomes across the EU had been to the cinema in 2015. In Finland, half of them said that they had attended a live performance. Cultural sites only came out on top in this group in the Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden.
A different pattern held for the people with the highest income: they were attracted mostly by cultural sites and live performances. Cinema was their favourite cultural activity only in Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain, Italy and Poland.
Cultural participation by degree of urbanisation
In some countries, cultural participation does not diverge a lot between cities and rural areas
Figure 5 shows that, as might be expected at least for structural reasons, in the EU as a whole the cultural participation rate is highest among people living in cities (69 %) and lowest among people in rural areas (57 %).
In the majority of EU Member States, the highest cultural participation rates were reported among people living in cities. At least half of all people living in European cities had participated in some kind of cultural activity, except in Bulgaria (44 %) and Romania (38 %). The participation was particularly high in cities in Denmark, Finland and Sweden where, nine out of ten people had been to the cinema, a live performance or a cultural site.
Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden were the countries where even in small towns and villages more than 80 % of people had participated in cultural activities.
In rural areas, participation rates varied considerably, from 11 % in Bulgaria to 83 % in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In some countries cultural participation in rural areas was rather limited, probably due to difficulties in getting to cultural institutions. In Bulgaria, Greece, Croatia, Hungary and Romania the gap in cultural participation rates between people in cities and in villages came to more than 20 percentage points. But in some Member States – Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal and Slovenia - the gap in cultural participation rates between people living cities and those from rural areas was very small and did not exceed 5 percentage points.
People living in rural areas mostly attend live performances
In the majority of EU Member States live performances were the favourite - and probably the most accessible - cultural activity for people living in rural areas. At least half of them had reported attendance to a life performance (concert, theatre, etc.) in almost half of all EU countries, with the highest rates recorded in Luxembourg (63 %) and the Netherlands (62 %).
Going to the cinema was the preferred cultural activity in only six EU countries, probably due to a lack of facilities nearby.
Museums, art galleries and historical monuments were preferred by people living in rural areas in only four EU Member States. However, they were visited by more than half of the rural population in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Finland and Sweden (see Figure 6).
Cultural participation by country of birth
In Denmark, Finland and Sweden more than 70 % of people born outside the EU participated in cultural activities
Figure 7 presents data on cultural participation (i.e. participation in any cultural activity) by country of birth, using the following aggregated categories of population: native-born population and foreign-born population, the latter distinguishing people 'EU-born' (except the reporting country) and born outside the EU ('non-EU-born').
In the EU as a whole, non-EU born population participated less in the three cultural activities analysed (54%), 10 percentage points below the participation rates observed for two other categories - native-born and foreign EU-born population (both at equal level 64%).
In the majority of countries, native-born population participated most in the three cultural activities but differences between native-born and foreign EU-born people were often very small (less than 10 percentage points in nine EU Member States). In Portugal and Malta, the participation rate for foreign population born in the EU was higher than that recorded for native-born population.
Non-EU-born population tended to participate less in the cultural activities analysed. In Austria, Belgium, Slovenia and the Baltic countries the gap between them and native-born people came to between 20 and 30 percentage points. On the other hand, in Denmark the gap was smaller than 10 percentage points.
Notably also, in some countries - Denmark, Finland and Sweden, the cultural participation rate among people born outside the EU exceeded 70 %, i.e. was higher than the rate observed for native-born population in many EU Member States.
The foreign population born in the EU most often visited cultural sites, while the foreign population born outside the EU had a slight preference for the cinema
In the EU overall, going to live performances was the least frequent cultural activity for all foreign-born population (both EU- and non-EU-born). Among population born in the EU 39 % had attended a live performance, 46 % had visited a cultural site and 42 % had been to the cinema and (see Table 5). In contrast, cinema was the favourite cultural activity for the population born outside the EU (37 %); 29 % of them had been to a live performance and 35 % had visited a cultural site.
Cultural participation patterns among foreign-born population (EU- or non-EU-born) vary a lot between countries. For example, in Germany, Finland and Sweden the foreign-born population (both EU- and non-EU-born) mostly visited cultural sites.
Source data for tables and figures
The data analysis in the present article is based on data from the EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) ad-hoc module on social and cultural participation. The survey was carried out in 2015 in all 28 EU Member States, EFTA countries (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The survey targeted all people aged 16 and over; the reference period was the previous 12 months.
This article covers the following cultural activities:
- going to the cinema (i.e. film screenings at motion-picture theatres);
- attending live performances (plays, concerts, operas, ballet and dance);
- visiting cultural sites (historical monuments, museums, art galleries or archaeological sites) and
- aggregate of any of the three cultural activities (either going to the cinema or attending live performance or visiting cultural sites).
Live performances include shows and other public performances by professionals or amateurs (including children), but exclude active participation.
In recent years, cultural participation was analysed using data from the specific module of the 2011 Adult Education Survey (see, for instance, the 2016 Eurostat publication, Culture statistics). As this module was optional, data were not available for all EU countries and only people aged 25-64 were covered.
Culture is one of Europe’s greatest strengths: it is a source of values, identity and a sense of belonging. It also contributes to people’s well-being, to social cohesion and inclusion. Its cultural and creative sectors are a driver for economic growth, job creation and external trade.
That is why culture at EU level is becoming increasingly important. Article 167 of the Lisbon Treaty states that the EU should ‘contribute to the flowering of the cultures of the Member States, while respecting their national and regional diversity and at the same time bringing the common heritage to the fore’.
The EU supports these objectives through the Creative Europe programme and a number of policy measures set out in the European Council Work Plan for Culture (2015–2018). EU culture ministers adopted the plan in December 2014. It sets out the main priorities for European cooperation in cultural policymaking. These are:
- encouraging inclusive and accessible culture;
- promoting cultural heritage;
- helping the cultural and creative sectors to flourish and
- promoting cultural diversity and culture in EU external relations.
Producing reliable, comparable and up-to-date culture statistics, as the basis for sound cultural policymaking, is another cross-sectoral priority in the Work Plan.
Eurostat compiles culture statistics from several EU-wide data collections to provide policymakers and other users with information on the main trends in employment, business, international trade, participation and consumption patterns in the field of culture.
The 2015 EU-SILC ad-hoc module on cultural participation provided a good insight into European cultural habits.
- Culture (cult)
- Cultural participation (cult_pcs)
- Participation in cultural activities — EU-SILC survey (cult_pcs_ilc)
- Frequency of participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by sex, age, educational attainment level and activity type (ilc_scp03)
- Frequency of participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by income quintile, household type, degree of urbanisation and activity type (ilc_scp04)
- Reasons of non-participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by sex, age, educational attainment level and activity type (ilc_scp05)
- Reasons of non-participation in cultural or sport activities in the last 12 months by income quintile, household type, degree of urbanisation and activity type (ilc_scp06)
- Frequency of practicing of artistic activities by sex, age and educational attainment level (ilc_scp07)
- Frequency of practicing of artistic activities by income quintile, household type and degree of urbanisation (ilc_scp08)
- Participation in cultural activities — EU-SILC survey (cult_pcs_ilc)
- Cultural participation (cult_pcs)
- European statistical system network on culture (ESSnet-Culture final report (2012))
- 2015 EU-SILC ad-hoc module target variables
- Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a European agenda for culture in a globalising world (COM(2007) 242)
- Regulation (EU) No 1295/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 establishing the Creative Europe Programme (2014–2020)