Attending Live Performances Makes Us Happier

Economists often get a lot of grief because of the cold and calculated nature of economics or the “dismal science” to quote Thomas Carlyle. And to be fair, maybe the stigma is some what warranted. Economists are often concerned with efficiency and productivity at an aggregate level which means they may overlook the more nuanced micro aspects of day-to-day life. However, there is a large area of economics which is concerned with studying the determinants of people’s well-being and satisfaction.

It just so happens that I enjoy this area of research and am currently working on a paper looking at the effect which attending cultural events has on the satisfaction level of individuals. I have performed a preliminary ordered probit test and found that individuals which live in country’s with high levels of live performance attendance, like concerts, are 0.35 times more satisfied with their lives than individuals that don’t.

Marginal Effects of Cultural Event Attendance

A very interesting point about the results is that they are negative for things like going to the cinema and sporting events. This seems fairly odd as one would assume engaging in any leisurely activity would be of benefit to your level of satisfaction or well-being. However, as can often be the case in social science research, I think the live performance variable may be measuring more than meets the eye.

I love going to live performances way more than I love going to the cinema, but I go to the cinema more frequently than I go to live performances. The reason for this is that each time I go to a live performance I have to pay for the ticket, the transport, the socialising during the night/day, and if it isn’t in Cork, the accommodation. The whole thing might cost me over €200. Where as going to the cinema may only cost me €20 max. Fair enough a sporting event may be a bit more expensive than the cinema but not as expensive as the average concert.

My point is that if you take someone who is able to afford to go and see live performances several times a year, they’re probably pretty well off. And while wealth doesn’t exactly make you happy, it allows you to afford things which do; a nice house, car, holidays, health insurance, good meals, and in this case concert tickets. So, are these people happier? Or do they just belong to a cohort of the population which are more satisfied with their life anyway?

In any event, the affect which attending cultural and leisure activities has on life satisfaction is always difficult to pin down exactly. Does going to events actually make you more satisfied with life? Or do satisfied people just go to events more frequently? It is difficult to answer this because being able to engage in a lot of leisurely activities is probably both a determinant and a symptom of being satisfied.

Although I would like to point out that the above tests do control for employment status, occupation type, financial distress, and educational attainment as well as marital and parent status, and it still appears that there is some kind of relationship between attending cultural events and life satisfaction. If you are interested in keeping up with more analysis of the Irish music industry, please give Music Economics a like on Facebook.

By Daragh O’Leary

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