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Id 167
Author Tavano Blessi, G.; Grossi, E.; Sacco, P. L.; Piereti, G.; Ferilli, G.
Title The contribution of cultural participation to urban well-being. A comparative study in Bolzano/Bozen and Siracusa, Italy

Tavano Blessi, G.; Grossi, E.; Sacco, P. L.; Piereti, G.; Ferilli, G. (2016). The contribution of cultural participation to urban well‑being. A comparative study in Bolzano/Bozen and Siracusa, Italy. Cities, 50, 216–226.

Keywords urban areas; culture; well-being; social welfare; cultural poverty trap; cultural policy
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Abstract What is the role of culture in contemporary urban life? Can culture function as an urban planning tool for individual and social well-being? Two elements are of special relevance in this regard: cultural vibrancy in terms of level of initiative in policies, use of facilities and activities, and individual and social propensities towards the participation in, and consumption of, cultural activities and goods. This paper takes the recent path of research on the impact of cultural participation on the social and economic sustainability of urban processes, with a specific focus on the individual subjective well-being dimension. Two Italian cities, one endowed with a high stock of cultural facilities, activities, and access (Bolzano/Bozen) and the other with a comparatively much lower stock in all respects (Siracusa), are examined. Comparative analysis suggests that the impact of culture on subjective well-being in a context of high cultural supply and substantial cultural participation is much more relevant with respect to low-endowment and low-participation cases, thus suggesting the possibility of a culture/well-being positive feedback dynamics leading to urban ‘cultural poverty traps’. On the basis of these results, we draw some implications for cultural policy design in urban contexts.

Metodology A cross-sectional survey of the main socio-demographic characteristics such as gender, age, education, income, diseases, employment, and civil status, which are listed as major well-being determinants in the subjective well-being literature, together with participation in cultural activities, was undertaken in the autumn of 2010 on a relatively large sample (750 polled) of residents living in both urban areas. CATI system. The sampling universe is stratified according to region and size of city of residence. A multi-step random sampling method was adopted to draw a large representative sample for both cities.The survey has been modeled on the PGWBI (Psychological General Well-Being Index), an instrument specifically targeted in order to measure individual subjective well-being, employed for the evaluation of the impact of different subjective well-being determinants. As for cultural variables, they have been selected so as to guarantee extensive coverage of cultural activities in accordance with the guidelines from the literature on cultural participation and thanks to a survey of a panel of 110 academics undertaken in 2008.

Findings Results show that aggregate (city) levels of cultural endowments, production, and participation have a strong positive impact on how cultural activity at the individual level affects individual well-being, thus confirming the common-sense intuition that the welfare effects of culture are superior in culturally more vibrant urban environments and that therefore different cities, even if similar in many other dimensions, may display very different results in this respect. Hence, there is potential risk of ‘cultural poverty traps’ which call for the design of countervailing urban policies. In this sense, cities then have to develop and implement comprehensive cultural planning approaches focusing on the cultural dimension as a pro-active welfare factor, which creates in addition a favorable social climate for innovative attitudes and mindsets, spreading various kinds of benefits across different social spheres.
Open Access NO
DOI 10.1016/j.cities.2015.10.009
Search Database Researcher Knowledge
Technique Literature review; questionnaire; PGWBI index
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