Overlaps and accumulations: The anatomy of cultural non-participation in Finland, 2007 to 2018

Riie Heikkilä, Taru Lindblom

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There is a fervent belief that culture is, among other desirable ideals, “good for you.” This has been the baseline of the cultural policies in many countries. Through cultural policies, some forms of cultural participation over others are subvented through public funding, which makes it yet more important to ask which groups intentionally withdraw—or are left out—from which forms of it. We address the debate on cultural non-participation by scrutinizing nationally representative and longitudinal survey data from Finland, a Nordic welfare country with allegedly low social and cultural hierarchies, for years 2007 and 2018. We explore the changes in cultural non-participation by asking whether the main frequencies of cultural non-participation have changed between 2007 and 2018, what forms of different cultural non-participation patterns can be distinguished, and which socioeconomic factors best predict which form of cultural non-participation most in both years. Finally, we ask whether certain everyday forms of participation would compensate or complement non-existing cultural participation. We find three main cultural non-participation patterns: highbrow avoidance, mainstream avoidance, and nightlife avoidance. While the changes in non-participation look small from the macro level, their internal dynamics face a steep change between 2007 and 2018. Especially higher education becomes a continuously more significant factor for any kind of cultural activity. We also show that cultural participation is not compensated by everyday activities as often claimed in the literature, but that cultural and everyday non-participation overlap. Our results indicate that the alleged egalitarianism in Finland does not reach cultural participation: avoiding most forms of participation is more and more related to socio-economic differences reflecting social and cultural hierarchies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122–145
Issue number1
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • cultural non-participation
  • Cultural participation
  • cultural stratification
  • education
  • everyday participation
  • Finland

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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