A 1% increase in the number of workers in the cultural sector would increase life expectancy by 5.2 months

Pau Rausell
Pau Rausell
A 1% increase in the proportion of workers in the cultural and creative sectors would increase life expectancy at birth by 5.2 months in Tuscany (Italy). In the Valencian Country, this increase would also have a significant impact on employment (63,000 more employed) and income (€511 more per capita in purchasing power parity).

The same increase in the Polish province of Kujawy-Pomerania would lead to an increase of more than 40,000 people from the region participating in the national parliamentary elections. These are some of the predictions of a European project led by the Universitat de València, which has relied on assistance from artificial intelligence.

The European consortium is headed by Pau Rausell, director of the group Econcult of the Universitat de València. It includes four universities, a Romanian cultural centre, a Belgian consultancy, a Parisian think tank, a French communication agency and the cities of Athens and Rijeka. The initiative, which is able to explore different innovative ways in order to "measure" the social impact of culture, started in 2020.

This process was completed at various levels through the development of a conceptual model that was able to explain the diverse and varied impact trajectories from "cultural experiences" to the creation of an impact on socioeconomic variables such as well-being, urban regeneration or citizen participation. At the micro level, the group identified and classified those indicators in the conception of cultural projects that were able to anticipate social impacts. In this sense, they developed an app prototype enabling to measure visual, cognitive, emotional and relational impacts of participating in a cultural experience and anticipating its effects on experience satisfaction.

"Essentially, we discovered that satisfaction in a cultural experience depends on a combination of aesthetic perception, assimilated knowledge, experienced emotions and quality of relationships with others activated by such experience. Each form of cultural experience, such as visiting a museum, attending a festival or strolling through a heritage site, shapes this combination of impacts differently. Thus, the most relevant aspect in explaining satisfaction when visiting an ethnological museum is its cognitive impact. In contrast, when attending a music festival, the relational aspect is the most significant", claims Amparo Oliver, member of the research team and full university professor of Behavioural Sciences Methodology at the Universitat de València.

However, the most spectacular tool of the project is perhaps the SICCRED (Societal Impacts of Culture and Creativity. European Regional Dashboard). Using artificial intelligence techniques as Causal Random Forest, this tool is capable of estimating the effect of an increase of cultural sector workers on 12 social variables ranging from health, social cohesion and political participation to tourism and productivity.

As for the Valencian Country, if the number of cultural and creative sectors workers were to increase from the current 2.89% to 3.89% of the total number of employed people, the most significant effects would be on education, with a 10% increase in the number of people accessing post-compulsory education. Although the effects would also be very important on the apparent productivity of the labour factor (going from ¤48,300 to ¤53,000), on tourist overnight stays (an increase of 1.7 million over the current 50 million) or on life satisfaction, which would increase slightly, 0.02 points over the current 7.55 (on a scale of 0 to 10). All data for each one of the regions is available through an open-access interactive tool.

"This tool is a powerful resource for anticipating the social effects of policies oriented towards the cultural and creative sectors. Those effects represent the first clear scientific evidence, at the macro level, of the quantitative causal impacts of culture on well-being", says Jordi Sanjuán, member of the research team and author of a doctoral thesis entitled "Cultural and creative industries a the well-being of regions," developed within the framework of the Mesoc project.

Moreover, the Mesoc project has developed many other tools, such as a handbook for cultural project design seeking to maximise social impact, and the largest database on cultural and creative sectors and women which can be accessed through an artificial intelligence analysis tool named ArtGen.

This project has been highlighted as one of the most relevant in Cluster 2 (H2020 programme), and has recently recently been presented as an example at the events of the Spanish Presidency of the EU. It is now coming to an end, but it opens up many new questions and lines of research that the Econcult research team will continue to explore with other projects and consortia.