Effects of Arts Education on Participation in the Arts
Report 36: Executive Summary
The arts education that Americans gain and its potential effect on their participation in the
arts is an issue that is central to the development and preservation of our uniquely diverse
American culture. Thus it is critical to look very carefully at what kind of education in the arts
Americans receive, where they receive it, and what influence it may have on active involvement in
the arts later in life. Information regarding the impact of arts education on arts participation is
necessary for any individual or organization interested in arts education at any level or in the
broader range of educational and cultural policy.
This report identifies broad patterns of arts participation and arts education among the
American public and investigates the effects of arts education on arts participation as they apply
to all Americans.(1) The focus is on the following questions:
Do people become more actively involved in music, dance, writing, acting, and visual arts as a
consequence of arts education?
How does arts education make a contribution (or reduce the differences) to arts participation
among people of different socioeconomic status, gender, racial, and ethnic groups?
Do any of the answers to the above questions differ when distinguishing between arts education
that is based in K-12 schools and that which is based in the private sector community outside of
- Which is more important to increasing active participation„arts education or general
This report uses data from the 1992 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA92), which
was conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of the
National Endowment for the Arts, and is to date the most comprehensive indication of arts
participation in the United States. Data are representative of the population of the United States
with respect to age, race, and gender. Even the most basic analyses reveal important differences in
both arts education and arts participation among the racial and ethnic groups considered in the
SPPA92: namely, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, and whites. Therefore, in
this report each group is considered separately.(2)
The art forms from the SPPA92 that were used predominantly in these analyses are (depending on
the particular variable) classical music, jazz, opera, musical play or operetta, non-musical
dramatic play, ballet, other forms of dance, poetry, novels or short stories, visual art, and video
programs about the arts or artists. Although the SPPA92 does not include all art forms and
types of art in which Americans participate, it does allow consideration of three dimensions of
arts participation: attendance, production, and accessing the arts via the media. In this report,
participation in the arts activities included in the survey is also considered as either
consumptive (attendance and media-accessed arts participation) or productive (performance,
creating) in nature. With this distinction, it is important to keep in mind that consumptive
participation is not merely passive. Individuals actively "consuming" music, literature, dramatic
performances, dance, or visual displays of art use their active perception and critical reasoning
For the purposes of this report, the measures of arts consumption employed were the following:
live attendance at arts performances (attendance); listening to radio broadcasts or audio
recordings on record, tape, or compact disc (audio media); watching performances on television
and/or using a videocassette recorder (VCR) (video media); and reading print literature or
listening to recordings of print literature (print media). Additive standardized scales of arts
consumption were constructed, which awarded points for the number of times the respondent consumed
a particular type of music, drama, dance, or visual art display in the 12 months that preceded the
survey.(3) Over 12,500 Americans responded to questions of this type.
As previously stated, arts production is defined as either performing (performance) or creating
(creation). Once again, additive scales were constructed, awarding a point for each type created or
performed and, for both scales, an additional point if the performance or creation was publicly
demonstrated. The sample size for arts production questions was 5,701.
Finally, an arts education index (arts education density) was created to represent both the
breadth and depth of arts instruction across a lifetime. One point was assigned for each type of
class taken and one point for each time period (elementary, high school, college, or adult years)
during which the respondent took classes. On the other hand, scales for school-based and
community-based arts education represented only the number of art forms in which the respondent had
lessons while of school age (through age 17).
The SPPA92 also requested information about the respondent's background, including
sociodemographic characteristics such as gender, race, and ethnicity. For the purposes of this
report, data indicating respondent's family income, parents' level of education, and the number of
cars the respondent owned were combined into a standardized measure of socioeconomic status (SES).
Respondents also answered questions about their leisure activities (movies, sports, amusement
parks, exercise, outdoor activities, volunteer or charity work, home improvement/repair, and
gardening) and the number of hours they watched television on an average day. These responses were
combined into a standardized measure of leisure activity.
The purpose of this report is not to consider differences in arts participation by race and
ethnicity.(4) However, from a perspective of aesthetic and educational
egalitarianism, the question is asked: Does arts education make arts participation more accessible
to Americans? To answer this question, arts participation as an outcome of arts education was
viewed, taking into consideration one's lifestyle. Also explored was the question of whether arts
education reduced or possibly eliminated observed gender, ethnic, or socioeconomic status
differences in arts participation. Further, because the SPPA92 questions distinguished between arts
education received in school from that received in the community (outside of school), it was
possible to compare the effects of these two arts education agencies on arts participation and to
pay special attention to the sociodemographic characteristics of those who receive arts education
from each. This was done in recognition of the view that public schools emphasize equality of
opportunity and are therefore of somewhat different purpose than most arts education programs
available through the private sector, which often require financial remuneration from the students
or their families.(5)
Effects of Arts Education on Arts Participation
To summarize the results in different areas more specifically, each outcome has been highlighted
with a summary of findings, followed by some general observations concerning patterns of
Men and women are about equally likely to attend a performance of music, opera, drama, dance,
or a museum exhibit, once one takes into account social and personal background characteristics and
how much time a person has available to attend an arts performance.
Those who had more arts education were more likely to attend arts performances„a
relationship which was about four times stronger than that of any other factor considered.(7)
More than half the initial differences in attendance associated with SES-one's ability to
pay-were removed by considering differences in arts education.
- Maintaining a busier lifestyle reduces one's rate of arts attendance.
Arts Accessed Through Audio Media
The number of art forms Asians listened to via recordings and broadcasts of music and drama was
comparable to whites, whereas African Americans had broader listening habits.
Arts education was much more important in predicting this type of arts participation than
personal background or leisure and more strongly predicts arts listening than any other type of
- Higher socioeconomic status led to increased participation via audio media but was only
one-third as strong a predictor as arts education.
Arts Accessed Through Video Media
Of those factors considered in this study, arts education was the only predictor of watching
the arts on television or via VCR.
The variables in these analyses predicted very little of this type of arts participation.
Therefore, many of the influences as to why people watch the arts on television remain
Arts Accessed Through Print and Print-Related Media
Women read more than men, even after taking
SES and level of arts education into account.
Asian and Hispanics had less print-media involvement than whites and African Americans, again
after taking SES and level of arts education into
Those with higher levels of socioeconomic status also read more.
Those with more education in the arts read more. This factor was by far the strongest single
predictor of time spent reading among the factors considered.
Men reported spending much less of their time creating (photography, needlework, painting,
musical composition, creative writing) than did women, even after taking arts education, alternate
leisure activity level, and SES into account.
African Americans reported spending less time creating than did other ethnic groups, even after
adjusting for the amount of arts education one had.
Arts education was the strongest predictor of arts creation, reducing the effect of SES substantially.
Those more active in other pursuits reported less arts creation. In fact, when the amount of
leisure activity was also taken into account, SES
showed no independent effect on participation in arts creation.
- African Americans reported spending less time performing than did the other racial/ethnic
- Arts performance was the only type of arts participation that was not predicted by arts
education despite the probable dominance of arts performance as a goal and instructional practice
within arts education.(8)
- Much of the influence of arts performance remains undefined.
Arts education was the strongest predictor of almost all types of arts participation (arts
performance being the exception). Those with the most arts education were also the highest
consumers and creators of various forms of visual art, music, drama, dance, or literature.
Similarly, the higher one's SES, the more one
participates in arts activities. On the other hand, at least half of the effect of SES on all types of arts participation was attributable to
differences in arts education. Although SES was not as important in increasing participation as was
arts education, it did function as a resource factor, contributing to whether or not a person
received education in the arts. In addition, of all types of arts participation, listening to the
arts via audio media was the most dependent on
SES, further revealing socioeconomic status as a restrictive force on arts
School-Based vs. Community-Based Arts Education
As a final exploration into the impact of arts education, consideration was given to the
question of how respondents' lessons in the arts taken before the age of 17 in school and in the
private sector contribute to arts participation, both separately and together; and to the impact of
demographic background of students engaged by each type of arts education agency.
Findings indicate that the higher one's socioeconomic status, the more arts education one
received, regardless of where that education was gained, even after adjusting for personal
background. It is noteworthy that SES was more
important to increased community-based arts education than it was for school-based arts. Whereas
men were only slightly less likely than women to take arts courses in school, they were
much less likely to do so in the community-based arts education agencies outside of
After adjusting for socioeconomic status and gender, African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and
whites had about the same level of involvement in arts education in schools. In sharp contrast,
white respondents reported much higher levels of community arts education than did Asian, African
American, or Hispanic, even after adjusting for socioeconomic status and gender.
Effects on Arts Participation
For almost every type of arts participation, the more one received of both school- and
community-based arts education, the more one participated in the arts as an adult, either through
consumption or creation.(9) The exception was once again in arts performance,
where having received community-based arts education as a child or youth did nothing to predict
arts performance, and receiving school-based education actually decreased the likelihood somewhat
that individuals would continue to perform as adults.
In sum, a comparison of school-based and community-based arts education does not yield a simple
picture as to their relative effects on arts participation. When compared to school-based arts
education, receiving arts education that is community-based tends to reflect individuals who were
higher in two types of arts participation (attendance and video-media involvement). Although arts
education in school contributed to more time spent in arts creation, it appears to slightly
decrease the likelihood of participation in arts performance. Each type of arts education
exerted comparable influence on audio-media involvement. The largest difference between them was in
consumption of arts via video media, in which community-based arts education was much more
important than school-based arts education.
Effects of General Education vs. Arts Education on Arts Participation
Three sets of analyses for each form of arts participation were conducted to compare the impact
on arts participation played by arts education and by the broader socialization context of
education.(10) Because individuals' access to these types of education was
related to other background features (SES, gender,
and ethnicity), an analysis was made of (1) the relationship between arts education and education,
(2) the independent effect of each type of education on arts participation after taking the other
into account, and (3) the contingent effects of education and arts education; that is, the effect
of one depending on how much of the other one received.
Overall, education is generative - more education in the arts also shows higher levels of
general education and vice versa. Interestingly, differences in school - and community-based arts
education primarily occurred between and around the point of high school graduation. High school
dropouts reported having received much less school-based arts education than did high school
Independent Effects of Arts Education and Education on Arts Participation
Generally, more arts education or education (hence, arts/education) meant more arts consumption
(attending, listening to, watching, or reading) and more arts creating (writing, composing,
drawing, painting). Indeed, arts education had a much stronger impact than did overall educational
attainment, even after taking personal background and socioeconomic status into account.
This difference is not surprising, given that general education is by nature less arts-specific.
However, there are two remarkable observations. First, although much arts instruction, particularly
in the schools, stresses the development of arts performance or production skills, it was arts
consumption and creation that were more related to arts education, not the more logical arts
performance. Arts education (received in either the school or the community) and overall education,
once again, did not impact arts performance at all. Second, the effect of education on arts
creation does not remain after one considers differences in individuals' level of arts education.
However, years of education continued to be a significant factor in predicting Americans' arts
consumption habits, even after taking into account the effect of arts education. This result
implies that education operates as a socialization force, even if not as directly related to arts
participation as arts education.
Interdependency of Arts Education and Overall Education
Because both arts education and general education influenced patterns of arts consumption,
whether the patterns themselves were different was explored, as well as whether the effects of
overall education and arts education changed depending on how much of the other a person had
received. It could be, for example, that getting a solid arts education has a stronger effect on
students who have a strong educational background in general, so that arts education simply adds on
to the effect of other schooling. On the other hand, it could be the case that arts education is
more important for students with less overall education. Put another way, if schooling partially
compensates for a lack of an education in the arts, then the specific influence of arts education
may only show up for students who have had limited schooling. This question frames the last set of
When looking at print-media involvement (reading and/or listening to books, plays, and poetry),
findings revealed that there was no shift in the effects based on the influence of the other type
of education. The effect of arts education on print-media involvement remained independent of
overall educational attainment; in other words, more arts education resulted in more involvement
both at the low and the high ends of the educational spectrum. This is remarkable considering the
prominent role of reading in so many aspects of education.
However, when looking at arts attendance and audio- and video-media accessed arts consumption,
findings revealed that the effects of general education changed, depending on how much arts
education one had received. Specifically, those people with high levels of general education
and a more extensive arts education experience were much higher in their arts attendance and
consumption than were those with comparable general education but little or no arts-specific
education. Similarly, arts education had a more powerful impact on arts attendance for individuals
of greater overall educational attainment; whereas arts education alone, without the larger
socialization that education provides, had less of an impact on arts attendance. A similar pattern
was observed regarding rates of watching televised or video-recorded arts events. This would
suggest that this type of arts participation and arts attendance are operating along the same
dynamic: arts education makes more of a difference when students have the larger socialization of
education in place. In general, these two different aspects of education reinforced each other,
making the final impact on arts attendance much stronger.
Curiously, those people with high levels of general education and a more extensive arts
education spent less time, rather than more, creating arts (writing, composing, painting, drawing,
etc.). The effect of arts education on arts creation had a very different meaning relative to an
individual's overall education. Although arts education did increase the amount of arts creation
for all individuals, it was more important for those who had less education in other disciplines.
For example, a student who dropped out of high school having received a great deal of arts
education (in or out of school) created far more arts as an adult than did a similar person who
Finally, it was observed that arts education helped equalize the effects of overall education on
arts listening. People without any arts education were very differentiated according to their
educational background with regard to their arts listening. As arts education increased they became
more similar to each other, to the degree that among people with a great deal of arts education,
college graduates and high school dropouts exhibited comparable arts listening habits.
For information on the rates of arts participation by degree of arts education and of
education, see Orend and Keegan (1996). Also, arts education was viewed from a global perspective
rather than by individual art form as investigation was made into the possibility of causal
relationships between types of arts participation and arts education.
Due to the fact that there were so few Native Americans surveyed (N=16), and given the
statistical procedures employed in this report, it was necessary to exclude them from the analyses.
In the case of listening to music or stage works via audio media, a point was awarded for each
art form the respondent listened to via radio broadcast or audio recording. This reflects the
content of the SPPA92 questions pertaining to this type of arts participation.
For a discussion of race/ethnicity and rates of arts participation by art form, see the NEA
Research Division reports by Love and Klipple (1996).
Even though arts lessons "in-school" were not limited to those in public schools by the wording
of the SPPA92, one can
extrapolate a certain degree of nonprivate "publicness" to the SPPA92 questions that distinguish school and
community arts instruction, given that approximately 80 percent of American students attended
publicly supported schools in 1992 (U.S. Department of
Although the final analytical step took into account various aspect of one's leisurely
lifestyle that may compete with participating in the arts for one's time, the inclusion of leisure
into the analyses did not increase the ability to predict arts participation, nor did it alter the
impact of the other variables on arts participation. For these reasons, mention of leisure in this
discussion is limited. See Appendix B for a summary table of the differences between analyses where
leisure was included and excluded.
- This finding does not indicate that a person trained in the arts attends performances four
times as much as those who do not, but rather that the relationship between arts education and arts
attendance is more reliable and important than ethnic background, SES, or degree of leisure activity.
See Reimer (1994) and J. Paul Getty Trust (1985) for discussions of the status of music
performance in music education and of the role of visual art production in art education,
In considering the comparative effects of arts education on arts participation by arts
education agency (school-based vs. community-based), one should remember that school-based
instruction is likely to be delivered to groups of students, while much of what goes on in
community-based arts education efforts is within a one-on-one private setting. Consideration of
this difference must be made when interpreting the comparative effects of each on arts
See Appendix C for a summary of results related to the effects of general education on arts
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