If you sing, dance, draw, or act -- and especially if you watch others
do so -- you probably have an altruistic streak, according to a study
by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

People with an active interest in the arts contribute more to society
than those with little or no such interest, the researchers found. They
analyzed arts exposure, defined as attendance at museums and dance,
music, opera and theater events; and arts expression, defined as making
or performing art.

"Even after controlling for age, race and education, we found that
participation in the arts, especially as audience, predicted civic
engagement, tolerance and altruism," said Kelly LeRoux, assistant
professor of public administration at UIC and principal investigator on
the study.

In contrast to earlier studies, Generation X respondents were found to
be more civically engaged than older people.

LeRoux's data came from the General Social Survey, conducted since 1972
by the National Data Program for the Sciences, known by its original
initials, NORC. A national sample of 2,765 randomly selected adults

"We correlated survey responses to arts-related questions to responses
on altruistic actions -- like donating blood, donating money, giving
directions, or doing favors for a neighbor -- that place the interests
of others over the interests of self," LeRoux said. "We looked at
'norms of civility.' Previous studies have established norms for
volunteering and being active in organizations."

The researchers measured participation in neighborhood associations,
church and religious organizations, civic and fraternal organizations,
sports groups, charitable organizations, political parties,
professional associations and trade unions.

They measured social tolerance by two variables:

--Gender-orientation tolerance, measured by whether respondents would
agree to having gay persons speak in their community or teach in public
schools, and whether they would oppose having homosexually themed books
in the library.

--Racial tolerance, measured by responses regarding various racial and
ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian
Americans. Eighty percent of the study respondents were Caucasian,
LeRoux said.

The researchers measured altruistic behavior by whether respondents
said they had allowed a stranger to go ahead of them in line, carried a
stranger‚s belongings, donated blood, given directions to a stranger,
lent someone an item of value, returned money to a cashier who had
given too much change, or looked after a neighbor‚s pets, plants or

"If policymakers are concerned about a decline in community life, the
arts shouldn't be disregarded as a means to promote an active
citizenry," LeRoux said. "Our positive findings could strengthen the
case for government support for the arts."

The study was based on data from 2002, the most recent year in which
the General Social Survey covered arts participation. LeRoux plans to
repeat the study with results from the 2012 survey, which will include
arts data.

The UIC research was part of a nationwide effort funded by the National
Endowment for the Arts to learn how individuals' exposure to the arts
affects American society. Fifteen institutions across the country
designed and conducted various studies.

For more information about UIC, visit

- UIC -

NOTE: Please refer to the institution as the University of Illinois at
Chicago on first reference and UIC on second reference.
"University of Illinois" and "U. of I." are often assumed to refer to
our sister campus in Urbana-Champaign.

UIC News Release
August 16, 2012

CONTACT: Anne Brooks Ranallo, (312) 355-2523,