Engaging Culture

The Research is In: Money Doesn’t Buy Taste

Perhaps all the media ministries complaining about the “cultural elite” should hold on a second. According to researchers at Oxford University, what we’ve guessed is true – just because you have money, doesn’t mean you have class or taste. As the Wall Street Journal reports:

There is no such thing as a “cultural elite.” That is the conclusion of researchers at Oxford University, who analyzed leisure and income data from seven countries to test whether people in wealthy families exhibit a stronger fondness for high culture, while those from more ordinary backgrounds prefer mass culture. They found that social class had little impact on an individual’s tastes. In fact, a “substantial minority” of members of the most privileged social groups either only like popular culture or aren’t very oriented toward culture at all, U.K. newspaper the Independent reports.

The researchers did say that social “status” — generally a person’s professional affiliation, as opposed to family origin — played a role in cultural habits. In practical terms, this means opera houses and art galleries are likely to be filled with individuals who, whatever their upbringing, have achieved a certain professional standing.

  • The study’s authors helpfully divided people into four groups. Univores like only popular culture — soap operas, say, or action movies. Omnivores are equally well-versed in “La Traviata” and “Gossip Girl.” Paucivores absorb very little culture, and inactives apparently are entirely numb to their cultural surroundings. Which category do you belong to?– Wendy Pollack

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  1. I'm not sure I understand what they're saying ….

    Does this mean I paid too much for the Singing Bass Plaques I bought for each member of my extended family?  They were on sale at Walmart ……

  2. Oxford University's research project was entirely superfluous.

    Just watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians on cable TV would have conclusively demonstated that money doesn't buy you taste or culture.

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