Associations between neighbourhood deprivation and engagement in arts, culture and heritage: evidence from two nationally-representative samples

Publication type

Journal Article


Publication date

September 16, 2021



Previous research has shown the benefits of arts and cultural engagement for physical, mental and social wellbeing. This engagement is socially and geographically patterned. Yet it remains unclear whether place-based attributes are associated with engagement behaviour independent of individual factors. Therefore, the aim of this cross-sectional study was to robustly disentangle associations between geographical deprivation and arts engagement from the individual socio-demographic factors that tend to correlate with residential locations.

Two different samples drawn from two representative surveys of adults living in England were compared – Understanding Society Wave 2 (2010/12) (N = 14,782) and Taking Part survey (2010/11) (N = 4575). Propensity score matching (PSM) was applied to investigate the association between neighbourhood deprivation (20% most deprived vs 20% least deprived) and arts engagement (arts participation, cultural attendance and museums and heritage engagement).

Higher levels of neighbourhood deprivation were associated with lower arts, culture and heritage engagement independent of individuals’ demographic backgrounds, socio-economic characteristics and regional locations. When exploring subcategories of deprivation, similar results were obtained across deprivation domains. Results were also consistent when using more distinct categories of deprivation (i.e. 10% most deprived vs 10% least deprived) and when comparing people living in the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods with those living in the 40% medium-deprived areas.

This study is the first to apply a robust PSM technique to examine the association between neighbourhood deprivation and arts engagement using two nationally-representative samples. Results show that neighbourhood deprivation may act as a barrier that could prevent people from engaging in the arts, which in turn may exacerbate social and health inequalities. This highlights the importance of place-based schemes that focus on increasing individual motivation and capacity to engage in arts and cultural activities, especially in areas of high deprivation.

Published in

BMC Public Health


Volume: 21:1685






This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

Open Access



Latest findings, new research

Publications search

Search all research by subject and author


Researchers discuss their findings and what they mean for society


Background and context, methods and data, aims and outputs


Conferences, seminars and workshops

Survey methodology

Specialist research, practice and study

Taking the long view

ISER's annual report


Key research themes and areas of interest