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Access to arts linked to better health, safety, education in low-income neighborhoods

Arts & Culture, Learning and Evaluation

Low-income residents who live in neighborhoods with more arts and cultural amenities are healthier, better educated and safer than those in similar communities with fewer arts and cultural opportunities, according to the results of a study released last week.

Researchers from the School of Social Policy and Practices at the University of Pennsylvania concluded that New York City neighborhoods with higher concentrations of cultural assets, experienced:

  • 14 percent fewer cases of child abuse and neglect
  • 18 percent lower felony crime rate
  • 17–18 percent increase in the number of students scoring at the highest level on standardized math and English tests
  • 5 percent less obesity

Authors cautioned that the findings did not show that arts directly caused the more positive outcomes, but that they were significant in a broader context, indicating that “cultural assets are part of a neighborhood ecology that promotes well-being.”

The findings support previous research commissioned by Kresge grantee ArtPlace America.

Regina R. Smith, managing director of The Kresge Foundation’s Arts & Culture Program, said the findings are consistent with the foundation’s belief that arts and culture should be an integral component of stable, healthy communities.  Kresge Arts & Culture Program supports Creative Placemaking – the integration of arts, culture and community-engaged design into community development and urban planning.

“These findings support what many in the Creative Placemaking field understand anecdotally – that arts and culture are not silver bullets, but are part of a suite of solutions that residents and local officials can use to stabilize neighborhoods and expand opportunity for people,” said Smith. “There is a history of adding arts activities to community development projects. We are increasingly observing urban planners and municipal leaders adopting this approach as integral to equitable development – not just an add-on.”