Culture as an engine of commerce

U.S. politicians who want to cut federal funding for NPR might read a study by the Ifo Institute for Economic Research in Munich. Researchers there found a direct link between spending on culture and regional economic health.

The authors studied the economic growth of regions with and without opera houses. Their conclusion: regions with these cultural centers attracted residents with more training and education, leading to greater economic growth for the region as a whole.

Or in the arcane language of the study: “Proximity to a Baroque opera house is a strong predictor of the district’s share of employees with a tertiary degree.” The study is quoted in the Economix blog by the New York Times.

Now you might dismiss the parallel with public broadcasting by saying that no one moves to a new location solely to be near a radio or television station and that’s a valid point. But for affluent and well-educated citizens, proximity to sources of knowledge and culture factor almost as heavily as health care in the decision to relocate. (In a recent survey by  homebuilder Del Webb 61% said one of the top reasons for deciding where to move involves cultural and recreational amenities — a percentage point more than a favorable climate.)

Since these consumers have the wherewithal to support politicians as well as newscasters, lawmakers might reconsider using fiscal policy to drive social change.

Bavarian State Opera, Munich

Bavarian State Opera, Munich