Cultural Attractions, Human Capital and Economic Growth
The number of well-educated residents that areas draw can have a bearing on economic vitality, and yet local and regional planners must consider how far they should go in appealing to residents who will bring such “human capital.” One outstanding question remains precisely how cultural amenities such as museums and theaters translate into value beyond aesthetic enjoyment.
A 2010 paper by the Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, “The Phantom of the Opera: Cultural Amenities, Human Capital and Regional Economic Growth,” examined the population trends surrounding 29 Baroque-era opera houses in Germany, all built before the industrial revolution, to determine the effect that such cultural institutions had on the present population make-up. The researchers also analyze the effect of local human capital on a location’s growth.
The study’s findings include:
- Controlling for historic university locations, ethnicity, religion and several other variables, the proximity of an opera house is a strong predictor of a region’s share of high-human-capital employees. For every 10 kilometers nearer to an opera house, the region’s share of employees with a university degree increases 0.3 percentage points.
- These results are reinforced when tested against a carefully selected and matched group of 29 “twin” regions without baroque opera houses.
- A modest increase in the level of high-human-capital employees increases average annual growth of regional GDP per capita by between 1.0 to 2.1 percentage points.
The authors advise that policymakers should take into consideration their cultural offerings as they compete for high-human-capital individuals. Still, the researchers caution that regional officials should “carefully consider the possibility of unwanted side effects from redistributing resources to cultural amenities at the expense of other public spending or increased taxes because such a policy could result in relocation decisions by firms or individuals that do not value cultural amenities.”
Tags: arts, entertainment
Note to instructor: The suggested assignments are designed for flexibility. They can be used in whole or part and can be adapted to a particular task -- for example, the newswriting assignments could be applied to the writing of the headline, the lead, the nut graph or the full story. Material from the assignments could also be combined with other material, for example, in the writing of a background, feature or local-angle story.
Read the University of Munich study "The Phantom of the Opera: Cultural Amenities, Human Capital, and Regional Economic Growth."
- Summarize the study in fewer than 40 words.
- Express the study's key term(s) in language a lay audience can understand.
- Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example: Do the results conflict with those of other reliable studies? Are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
Read the issue-related New York Times article "Momentum for a Revitalized Arts District."
- If you were to rewrite the article based on knowledge of the study, what key changes would you make?
- Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study.
- Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
- Interview two sources with a stake in or knowledge of the issue. Be prepared to provide them with a short summary of the study in order to get their response to it. Write a 400-word article about the study incorporating material from the interviews.
- Spend additional time exploring the issue and then write a 1,200-word background article, focusing on major aspects of the issue.