Study Proves Benefits of the Arts on Low-Income Neighborhoods

A two-year study by researchers from the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania has revealed a relationship between the presence of cultural resources in a neighborhood and key aspects of social wellbeing, particularly in less advantaged neighborhoods. Low- and moderate-income residents in New York City neighborhoods with many cultural resources are healthier, better educated, and safer overall than those in similar communities with fewer creative resources

Specifically, the research, which was controlled for economic wellbeing, race, and ethnicity, found the presence of cultural resources is associated with:

  • A 14% decrease in cases of child abuse and neglect
  • A 5% decrease in obesity
  • An 18% increase in kids scoring in the top stratum on English and Math exams
  • An 18% decrease in the serious crime rate

“This research confirms and builds on what we’ve seen about the power of art to shape communities and improve lives,” said Kerry McCarthy, director of thriving communities at The New York Community Trust.

“The findings of this study prove what we’ve witnessed anecdotally for decades: the arts improve lives. It draws upon our most fundamentally human qualities such as creativity, discovery, and community,” said James Bartlett, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts.

Previous studies have already suggested that exposure to the arts can help adolescents develop many positive skills and capacities that are valued by leaders and employers, such as persistence, collaboration, creative thinking, problem solving, motivation, and problem solving. In addition, studies demonstrate that arts exposure can improve a teenager’s confidence, motivation, and academic performance.

Considering the evidence, we highly recommend that parents seek out programs that offer artistic exposure for their teens, especially if their schools do not offer an art program. Many nonprofits and community organizations throughout the United States provide services offering lessons in the arts.

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