Arts/Culture + Social Wellbeing

"By integrating culture and the arts into a conception of social wellbeing, we view culture as one of the elements of a life one has reason to value." 

A recent study from Professor Mark J. Stern and Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) director Susan C. Seifert at the University of Pennsylvania links art directly to social wellbeing in low income neighborhoods in New York City. 

“We might expect culture to exhibit the strongest relationship with social wellbeing in neighborhoods with the largest number of cultural assets, but this is not the case,” the authors write. “We’ve found the most consistent relationships between culture and dimensions of social wellbeing in lower-income neighborhoods that, on average, have fewer cultural resources.”


Lack of such resources in a neighborhood doesn’t reflect a lack of interest in arts and culture - it reflects the distribution of resources to create programs. 

When controlling for factors including economic status, race, and ethnicity, the relative higher presence of cultural resources in lower-income neighborhoods is linked with several health, safety, and education benefits. These include a 14% decrease in indicted investigations of child abuse and neglect, an 18% decrease in felony crime rate and also a 17–18% increase in the number of students scoring at the highest level on standardized Math and English tests. 

Their findings give empirical support to "truisms accepted by the cultural sector about the social benefits of the arts to individuals."