Your earnings determine your culture

So does your mom, according to this study by Statistics Canada, which surveyed how nearly 10,000 Canadians aged 15 and over spend their leisure time. Your mom’s level of education has more impact on you and your siblings than your father’s level of education.

In general, the more money you make and the more education you have, the more things you do culturally. But the type of job you have — say one, like journalism, that doesn’t pay all that much, relatively speaking, but immerses you in people, organizations, and culture — also has an impact on your cultural menu. The report found that:

… someone working in management, business, finance or administration was 8.8 per cent more likely to attend a theatrical performance than someone unemployed or in a job related to primary industry or manufacturing. Those whose parents had advanced education, such as a university degree, were much more likely than those whose parents with lower education to attend most cultural activities. Mom’s education had more of an impact than did dad’s schooling, according to the report. For those in a romantic relationship, their partner’s education had an even greater effect than their mother’s schooling on their likelihood of participating in cultural activities. But factor in a kid or two and the time they spent going out declined, the study found.

This news is pretty much intuitive, but I find a few things interesting. One is that the survey looks at people ages 15 and older, providing some insight, however oblique, into the behavior patterns of youth culture.

Another is that the report lends credence to the growing theory that the arts need to target more precisely young professionals, those with advanced degrees and gainful employment but who have not settled down to raise a family. There are so many different ways of making money from dating — It’s Just Lunch, for instance — it seems arts organizations have a lot to look into.

The Canadian survey also brings up a subject that’s hard to bring up among the high earning and highly educated people that are the subject of this survey — the role that mothers play in the acculturation of their children.

Used to be that a child’s cultural education started at home. Now, since the 1970s, the beginning of the current social structure of two people bringing home incomes to meet the demands that used to be met by one income, a child’s cultural education is more likely to begin at school.

This is a shift that should get more discussion among those of us involved in the arts and those of us observing those involved in the arts. Problem is, the role of women remains politically charged, what with the ascendancy, since the Reagan Administration, of the pernicious “family values” orthodoxy. It would be difficult to have a mature conversation about it.

July 30, 2008 7:12 AM | | Comments (1)



Hi John: Interesting post, though I agree that the info in this study is mostly intuitive and rooted in common sense. You raise an interesting question at the end about working moms, though I don't think it necessarily follows that well-educated working moms whose kids are in daycare during the week are not still involved in the cultural education of their kids. I'm guessing that these kinds of moms are more likely to look extremely hard for a daycare with cultural activities, and to use their own time with their kids for similar activities. And as more and more moms entered the workforce in the 70s and 80s, remember the introduction of the phrase "quality time"? On the one hand, it's a reflection of the guilt that parents often seem to feel when not with their kids, but, on a more positive note, it's about making the most of what time parents DO have with kids. There are quite a few free, kid-friendly arts events in Madison and they seem to be very well-intended. So take these thoughts for what they're worth... the unscientific hunches of someone without kids!

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