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Abstract

Chicago is internationally known for the excellence of its major cultural institutions, which attract millions of visitors every year. What is the relationship between these organizations and the diverse population of Chicago? This study takes a significant step toward answering this question. Mapping Cultural Participation in Chicago is the first study of its kind of a major U.S. metropolitan area, and draws upon data – ticket purchases, subscriptions, donor lists – from Chicago’s 12 largest cultural organizations and 49 smaller organizations. This information was linked to census data on socio-economic status, race, and ethnicity to provide neighborhood-by-neighborhood maps of participation patterns. The study, funded by a grant from the Joyce Foundation, establishes the first benchmark to enable organizations to assess the future effectiveness of their diversity-building efforts among African-Americans and Latinos. Researchers, led by Professors Robert LaLonde and Colm O’Muircheartaigh of the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, found that Chicagoans are generally strong supporters of the largest institutions, with one household in six participating. The most engaged communities – where one household in two participates – are located in the North Shore suburbs and in the western suburb of River Forest. The lowest involvement in the major cultural institutions falls in the south and west sides and the near south suburbs. While race and ethnicity do play a role in lower participation rates among African-Americans and Latinos, "socio-economic factors are the strongest predictors of participation," says O'Muircheartaigh. Among other key findings: Smaller ethnic and diverse organizations successfully reach different audiences from those targeted by larger organizations. There are large, predominantly white areas, regardless of income, where participation rates are low. In the lowest participation communities, an average of one in twenty households was involved in the largest organizations.

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