Cultural Learning Alliance

The arts fuel children’s curiosity and critical capacity. They are every child’s birthright. It is vital that children engage with the arts early in their lives.

Arts Council England
Achieving Great Art for Everyone, 2011


Finding 5: Volunteering and voting

Students from low income families who engage in the arts at school are twice as likely to volunteer and are 20% more likely to vote as young adults

In the US the NELS:88 survey tracked 12,000 participants through to age 26.  Looking specifically at the outcomes of students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds, at the age of 26 they found that 24.3% of those who had been engaged in the arts at school were volunteering compared to 10.8% of non engaged students. In addition Catterall found high-arts students are about 15 percent more likely to register to vote, more than 30 percent more likely to have voted in the most recent presidential election, and about 20 percent more likely to have voted in any election in the 24 months leading to the last NELS survey panel (1).

UK studies back up these findings. For example using time diaries compiled over four days at age 16 by participants in the British Cohort Study of 1970, and controlling for other factors such as family background, Robson has found that art and music-related leisure, reading for pleasure and visiting a museum during the reference period at age 16 increased the odds of civic engagement at 29 (2).


(1) James Catterall, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art (Los Angeles: I-Group Books, 2009), 64.

(2) Karen Robson, “Teenage Time Use as Investment in Cultural Capital.” Working Papers of the Institute for Social and Economic Research, paper 2003-12 (Colchester: University of Essex, 2003), 23. 

The Big Sing - annual project which is part of The Sage Gateshead's Schools Programme. Photo: Mark Savage
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