Pat yourself on the back, UnBeige readers, because finally we have proof that you’re a superior bunch. It’s not simply reading here that makes you a better person but your love for art and design. According to a new study, people with an active interest in the arts contribute more to society than those with little or no such interest. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) used data from the General Social Survey—conducted since 1972 by the National Data Program for the Sciences—to analyze how arts exposure (defined as attendance at museums and dance, music, opera and theater events) and arts expression (defined as making or performing art) are related to traits of social responsibility.
“Even after controlling for age, race, and education, we found that participation in the arts, especially as audience, predicted civic engagement, tolerance, and altruism,” said Kelly LeRoux, an assistant professor of public administration at UIC and principal investigator on the NEA-funded study, in a statement issued by the university. LeRoux and her team correlated 2,765 randomly selected adults’ survey responses to arts-related questions to their responses on altruistic actions such as donating blood, giving directions, or doing favors for a neighbor, and looked at “norms of civility” including participation in community groups and charitable organizations. They also looked at responses related to social tolerance. “If policymakers are concerned about a decline in community life, the arts shouldn’t be disregarded as a means to promote an active citizenry,” added LeRoux, who plans to repeat the study with 2012 data.