Peter Szewczyk

Talking Cultural Economics in Kraków

How do you quantify the value you get from going to an art exhibit or theatre performance? What aspects of our environment influence our cultural preferences? How does a society accrue and maintain their cultural capital? None of these questions can have objective statistical answers. Yet, cultural economists continue to fascinate us through their ability to approach culture, a concept at the same time materialistic and non-materialistic, through an economically rigid perspective.

For the last few days, we’ve had the pleasure to attend the Eight European Workshop on Applied Cultural Economics (EWACE), hosted by the Association of Cultural Economics International (ACEI) and the Cracow University of Economics (special thanks to the wonderful host Prof. Murzyn-Kupisz!). We presented our working paper “Cultural Differences Affect Voluntary Payment Decisions” during the session on “funding”, alongside great papers on crowd-funding mechanisms in small-size French art museums and on the long-term crowding in effect of free museum admissions days on overall attendance. Other interesting topics ranged all over the macro/micro spectrum, from how the amount we are required to read at work negatively affects how much we read for leisure, to the influence of cultural distance on trade volumes between two nations, all the way to the importance of writers’ network clusters in the development of 19th century Germany.

In our paper, we attempt to explain the cross country differences in the size of the pay-what-you-want (PWYW) payments through the prism of culture. Using the data gathered from tourists attending a walking tour of Warsaw with a PWYW format (see our post from last year), we check whether cultural dimensions defined by Geert Hofstede (1984, updated last in 2015) can explain the differences in the amounts individuals decided to pay for the tour. Our results show that societies with lower acceptance of unequal power distribution (power distance) and with higher tolerance for unorthodox or unusual behavior and ideas (uncertainty avoidance) made, on average, higher payments. These findings can be explained rationally. For example, individuals coming from countries with higher uncertainty avoidance scores are said to be less open to unorthodox ideas, such as the concept of a PWYW walking tour, while societies with lower power distance place lower importance on hierarchical status and view the tour guides as equal, thus compensating them as they would wish to be compensated. Our paper adds a cross-cultural dimension to the literature on PWYW payments.

We are very thankful for the constructive comments we received from our discussant, Prof. Trine Bille (Copenhagen Business School), as well as attendees of our session, particularly, Prof. John O’Hagan (Trinity College Dublin) and Prof. Concetta Castiglione (University of Bologna). An updated version of the working paper will be presented at the North American Cultural Economics Workshop in Montreal this autumn. The slides from our presentation are attached below.