Art Groups Improve Health, Safety of New York Communities, Study Finds

Low- and moderate-income residents in New York City neighborhoods with access to plentiful cultural resources are healthier, better educated, and safer overall than those in similar communities with fewer creative resources, a study conducted by the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania finds.

Funded by the New York Community Trust and the Surdna Foundation, the study examined New York's "neighborhood cultural ecosystem" of creative nonprofits and for-profits, entertainment venues, news outlets, bookstores, artists, and other groups and found that cultural resources in lower-income neighborhoods are "significantly" linked to better health, schooling, and security. Controlled for economic well-being, race, and ethnicity, the research found that the presence of cultural resources was associated with a 14 percent drop in the number of cases of child abuse and neglect, a 5 percent decrease in obesity, an 18 percent decline in the rate of serious crime, and an 18 percent increase in the percentage of kids scoring in the top stratum on English and math exams.

The report also found that cultural resources are distributed unequally around the city, with the most affluent neighborhoods in Manhattan and western Brooklyn having extremely high concentrations of nonprofits, for-profits, and artists, while vast expanses of the other boroughs had very few cultural resources.

"This research confirms and builds on what we’ve seen about the power of art to shape communities and improve lives," said Kerry McCarthy, director of thriving communities at NYCT. "Our grantmaking boosts the arts in neighborhoods that need it most, so we are thrilled to use the findings to hone this strategy."