The Social Value of Art

  • Bruno S. FreyEmail author
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Economics book series (BRIEFSECONOMICS)


Most people engaged in culture favour impact studies, which measure the economic benefits produced by artistic projects. On that basis, many art expenditures seem to be economically beneficial. In contrast, art economists focus on measuring the social values produced. They include the external effects of artistic activities not taken into account by the market: existence, option, bequest, prestige, and education values. The two approaches consider different aspects of cultural management, and both must be taken into account.


Impact studies Multiplier effect Art expenditures External effects Non-use values Non-market effects Willingness-to-pay Existence value Option value Bequest value Prestige value Education value 

Related Literature

This chapter is partly based on

  1. Frey BS (2005) What values should count in the arts? The tension between economic effects and cultural value. Working paper series/Institute for Empirical Research in Economics No. 253, University of ZurichGoogle Scholar

Valuable discussions of impact and willingness-to-pay studies are

  1. De la Torre M (ed) (2002) Assessing the values of cultural heritage: research report. Getty Conservation Institute, Los AngelesGoogle Scholar

Journal of Cultural Economics (2003) “Contingent Valuation in Cultural Economics”. Special Issue: 27(3/4):155–315. In particular the articles by

  1. Noonan DS (2003) Contingent valuation of cultural resources: a meta-analytic review of the literature. J Cult Econ 27(3/4):159–176CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Throsby D (2003) Determining the value of cultural goods: how much (or how little) does contingent valuation tell us? J Cult Econ 27(3/4):275–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Practical applications of willingness to pay and contingent valuation include, for example

  1. Hansen TB (1997) The willingness-to-pay for the royal theatre in copenhagen as a public good. J Cult Econ 21(1):1–28Google Scholar
  2. Santagata W, Signorello G (2000) Contingent valuation of a cultural public good and policy design: the case of ‘Napoli Musei Aperti’. J Cult Econ 24(3):181–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CREW - Center for Research in Economics and Well-BeingUniversity of BaselBaselSwitzerland

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