A Snapshot of Arts Participation in the United States

Still Life with Apples by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 - 1906) Oil on canvas France 1893 - 1894 Source: J. Paul Getty Museum. Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum West Pavilion, Gallery W20 Used via the Getty's Open Content Program.
Still Life with Apples by Paul Cézanne (French, 1839 – 1906) Oil on canvas France 1893 – 1894 Source: J. Paul Getty Museum. Currently on view at: Getty Center, Museum West Pavilion, Gallery W20 Courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

Last month The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) published research on the participation of Americans in the arts at both a national and state level. In 2015, approximately two-thirds of American adults attended at least one film or visual art or performance event within the last year. Films appeared to be the most popular choice (among both urban and rural residents) with 55 percent of adults reporting that they took in a movie, while 32 percent attended a live dance, music or drama performance, and 19 percent an art exhibit. Residents of urban areas attended live arts events (33 percent versus 21 percent) and movies (60 percent versus 46 percent) more than their rural counterparts.

The proportion of American adults reading literature (plays, poetry, novels – not work or school materials) declined from 47 percent in 2012 to 43 percent in 2015. Women (49.8 percent) reported reading literature more than men (35.9 percent). Generally, better educated respondents reported a higher level of literature consumption than those with less education.

Pennsylvania had a slightly lower rate of adults attending a live arts performance or movie than the national average (65.2 percent versus 66.2). Overall, Pennsylvania residents’ rates of arts participation via literature, art class enrollment, personal creation, or use of electronic media to experience the arts were not significantly greater or less than the U.S average. All state profiles and additional briefs on arts engagement are available at the NEA webpage.

How Much Do We Care About Our Health?

Although the United States leads the world in obesity rates (don’t worry, the world is catching up) a recent study indicates that the majority of Americans do care about their health and put effort into improving or maintaining it.  Data from a NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health survey conducted last fall indicate that just over 60 percent of those polled were concerned with their health and 74 percent reported exercising or participating in vigorous activity at least a few times a week (29 percent reported exercising every day). However, just 16 percent were currently dieting to lose weight.

Also from the March 2015 brief What Shapes Health, approximately 50 percent of Americans feel they have control over their own health, but proportions vary by demographic characteristics. For example, respondents who made more than $50,000 a year were twice as likely to feel that they had control over their health than their peers earning less (28 percent compared to 13 percent). Far more respondents with a college degree (27 percent) reported having control over their health compared to those with a high school diploma or less (15 percent).  Also, respondents in fair or poor health, or from a household making less than $25,000 a year, had the most concern for their own future health.

Respondents did not identify a single cause of American health problems, rather the responses clustered at the top included a lack of access to high quality care (42 percent), personal behavior (40 percent), and virus/bacteria (40 percent). The most popular responses regarding what could be done to improve health were also varied – increasing access to affordable, healthy food (57 percent), reducing illegal drug use (54 percent), reducing pollution and increasing access to high quality health care (both at 52 percent).

Volunteering on the Decline – Unless it’s an Internship

Last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that American volunteerism had declined to 25.4 percent, the lowest rate since such data were first collected in 2002. The drop in volunteering occurred across many groups including,

  • men and women (though overall, women still volunteer more than men)
  • whites and blacks (no change among Asian and Hispanic volunteers)
  • persons employed (full or part-time) and those not in the workforce
  • persons with a high school diploma or a college degree

The median amount of time a person volunteered in 2012-2013 was 50 hours, with 72 percent reporting that they volunteer for one organization.  Approximately 43 percent of respondents sought out the opportunity to volunteer, while just about 41 percent were asked to do so by another person.

The BLS brief defines volunteers as “persons who performed unpaid volunteer activities,” which could also encompass internships by high school and college students.  This younger group does not appear to be experiencing a decline their interest to donate time, in fact, a study by Millennial Branding and Internships.com found that 77 percent of high school students were strongly motivated to volunteer, a rate even higher than their college counterparts (63 percent). The study suggests that high school youth recognize the educational (skill development) and pragmatic (networking) benefits associated with unpaid internships for organizations or companies that align with their career interests.

Have you noticed any changes in the volunteer pool at your nonprofit?

 

 

 

Despite their Numbers, Little Research on Abuse of Older Adults

The National Center for Elder Abuse (NCEA) recently tweeted a picture to remind that reconnecting with family during Thanksgiving weekend is not just a sentimental tradition, but a responsibility we have to our older relatives.  Although senior citizens make up a growing segment of society (the U.S. Census Bureau projects that about 20 percent of residents of the United States will be 65 years and older in 2030) there is not a body of research or a high-profile public service campaign focused on elder abuse and neglect.

Despite involving a highly vulnerable population, the issue of elder abuse hardly makes for gripping headlines, nor is it the subject of tear-jerking television commercials imploring people to not turn away from the difficult images of neglected senior citizens.  According to the report, Understanding Elder Abuse: New directions for developing theories of elder abuse occurring in domestic settings by Shelly L. Jackson and Thomas L. Hafemeister, the issue lacks the research funding and the backing of high profile organizations required to launch it to the forefront of public consciousness. Even the very definition of the word “elderly” is a source of debate as baby boomers don’t want to be reminded that they are getting older.

Without a powerful advocacy group or much data to plan and support a call to action, it is difficult to communicate the urgency of the problem to people bombarded near-daily with causes and foundations looking for more than just a sad story (this issue is not limited to interpersonal violence, there is a high-stakes battle for funding dollars among diseases).  Also, as Jackson and Hafemeister discuss, there is not a widely accepted theory that explains the incidence of elder abuse and neglect.  Several interpersonal explanations or socio-cultural approaches can be used to examine the issue,  but there is not one prominent school of thought  that illuminates what limited data are collected on the issue. Another factor that complicates presentation of the issue, is that  there are several kinds of abuse and neglect and not all are violent (fraud, theft, self-neglect) or always intentional (neglect, isolation).  The authors also point out that the victim of abuse and the relationship between abusing/neglectful caregiver and victim  are not closely examined (not to in anyway blame a victim, but relationship dynamics – and the majority of elder caregivers are family members – are fraught with various factors one theory may not  adequately capture).

Perhaps the reality of a projected 88.5 million adults over age 65 living in America in 2050 has prompted the need to explore the issue, as research collaborations have been formed through the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) to provide insight into this complex issue, identify evidence-based practices and guide policy formation.  To learn more about protecting the elderly at home or in care facilities, resources for caregivers, and the signs of abuse or neglect visit the FAQ page at NECA or the NAPSA  website.

 

 

Report Citations:

Vincent, Grayson K. and Victoria A. Velkoff, 2010, THE NEXT FOUR DECADES, The Older Population in the United States: 2010 to 2050, Current Population Reports, P25-1138, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC.

Jackson, Shelly L. and  Thomas L. Hafemeister, 2013, Understanding Elder Abuse: New directions for developing theories of elder abuse occurring in domestic settings,  National Institute of Justice, Washington, DC.