Social Impacts and Benefits of Arts and Culture

A Literature Review

Marilyn Smith, Rebecca Fisher, and Joelle Mader

This study begins with an overview of key theories underlying and framing research in the area of social impacts of arts and culture including the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, American sociologist Robert Putnam, Canadian political scientist Jane Jenson, and American economist Richard Florida. Here the origins of prevalent concepts such as cultural capital, social cohesion and the creative class are summarized. This section also includes a largely chronological review of studies finding wide evidence of positive effects of arts and culture in society.

The review continues by looking at frameworks for measuring social impacts from critical and practical perspectives. This section is complemented by a table which compares and contrasts selected social impact measurement frameworks (either proposed or implemented) and the inclusion of selected framework diagrams.

Next, an exploration of indicators for measuring the social impact of arts and culture is included. While much evidence is found of the difficulties in the development and measurement of indicators, it is also revealed that measurement is important in communicating to decision-makers and evaluating results.

This review concludes with the observation that while there is a preponderance of evidence that the arts and culture have wide-ranging, demonstrable positive social impacts and benefits, there is no consensus on how to measure these results.

Source: Executive Summary