Towards more accurate measurement of the value of the arts to society : economic impact and willingness to pay studies at the Standard Bank National Arts Festival

by Snowball, J.D.

Abstract (Summary)
The accurate measurement of the value of the arts to society is becoming increasingly important in developing countries, like South Africa, where the arts must compete with housing, health, education and the like for public funds.

Motivation for the public funding of arts events, like the Standard Bank National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, is usually based on the economic impact, that is, the financial benefits to the region, of such events. The argument is problematic, however, because the primary recipients of such economic benefits are often middle to upper income groups who also attend more arts performances. Furthermore, the studies have not taken into account the positive externalities which, it is argued, are generated by the arts and are enjoyed by attenders and non attenders alike.

This thesis argues that it is the social benefits which the arts provide, those external to the market, which should be the basis of public funding. In order to quantify these positive externalities, a willingness to pay (WTP) study was conducted in the Grahamstown region. It is generally, but erroneously, believed that the Festival does not benefit the poorer, largely black, Grahamstown East residents. The study found that, in addition to the economic value (R23 - 25 million a year), the non-market benefits which the festival provides are worth between R2.3 and R3 million a year and form a very important part of its value, particularly to low income groups.

The study also found that there are methodological adjustments which can be made to WTP studies to successfully control for the many forms of bias it is prone to. By using a combination of closed and open ended and liable and non-liable questions, the motivation of respondents' answers to WTP questions was determined, making it possible to adjust for bias caused by, for example, "free rider" and "warm glow" responses. It is argued that by identifying and excluding such responses from WTP surveys, it is possible to reduce bias to an acceptable level.

Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:economics and economic history


Date of Publication:01/01/2001

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