Research activities

Cultural goods, cultural practices and the role of cultural consumption in migrant integration 

Exploring innovative cultural policies in Torino: a statistical survey 


Recent scholarship is increasingly highlighting how the integration of immigrants in host societies is also linked to a relevant sphere of human socialization, that is, the extent and how migrants engage in leisure, cultural and arts activities. To address this issue, the research investigates participation in cultural and leisure activities by 300 foreigners, which represents a stratified sample of the most important communities of foreign residents living in Turin, Italy. By implementing multivariate analysis, our findings suggest a positive association between the levels of integration and the propensity to engage in different cultural and leisure activities. This propensity is mostly driven by duration of stay, occupational condition, and cultural background. At the same time, participation in events organized by the community represents the most frequent activity, regardless of the level of integration. Further, through Herfindahl indexes, our results suggest that cultural distance still partially explains immigrants' differences in distinct cultural choices. From a policy viewpoint, our findings help inform strategies for more effective relationships between local cultural institutions and foreign residents. This study contributes to a deeper understanding of the relevance of immigrants' cultural and leisure choices in shaping their integration process while influencing diversity integration-driven policies.


Cultural Policies for migrant inclusion: a survey

Alessandra Venturini, Cristina Mosso, Andrea Ricci  




Integration of migrants is a priority in destination countries. However, high unemployment as well as low wages and a strong segmentation still dominate the picture. Linguistic distance and cultural distance are mainly responsible for the lack of soft skills which limit migrant inclusion. Cultural policies which have been considered redundant are instead a priority for their positive effects on individuals and, in particular, on foreigners. 

This survey reviews the extensive research in the field using choir participation as pivotal activity. The results are measured with physiological and psychological indicators to understand the increase in self-esteem, self-efficacy and social inclusion which migrants need to grasp the social capital of destination countries and thus facilitate their own integration. Even if the empirical studies are not scientifically convincing, due to the small size of samples and the absence of randomization, the variety and large amount of literature available is persuasive in terms of the positive effects of participation in the training and performance of choirs.



IMISCOE - DIVCULT Standing Committee Cultrural Policies for migrant inclusion

Professor Venturini is on the executive board of IMISCOE-DIVCULT, which aims to better understand the relevance of arts and culture in the theoretical and policy debates about immigrant incorporation and diversity in Europe and beyond. Activities involving the arts have increasingly attracted the interest of migration researchers because they prove to be a means of moving beyond ethnic differences towards narratives of identity and belonging that are more apt to capture the current post-migrant reality in many cities and countries. We intend to cover a wide range of artistic and cultural activities in our analyses, ranging from music, literature, cinema and the theatre to sports, fashion, clothing, design and food. The idea is to jointly work on the following dimensions: 

· Theoretical and conceptual issues

· Methodologies

· Relevance and social impact

These dimensions constitute the general framework within which the researchers involved can develop joint research, organise workshops and conferences and publish their reflexions.

IMISCOE (International Migration, Integration and Social Cohesion in Europe) is Europe's largest interdisciplinary research network in the field of migration, integration and diversity studies. The research network currently consists of 56 research institutes from almost all European countries and from various disciplines, including sociology, political science, economics, law, demography, public administration, social geography and history.


Immigration, Cultural Participation and New Forms of Solidarity

Robert F. Barsky (Vanderbilt) and Marco Martiniello (FRS-FNRS & Université de Liège).


Over the last few years, artistic activities have been raising considerable interest among migration researchers because they prove to be a means of moving beyond ethnic differences towards narratives of identity and belonging that are more apt to capture the current post-migrant reality in many cities and countries. This issue contributes to this effort by focusing on the cultural and artistic participation of migrants and descendants of migrants in a transatlantic perspective, and also on the spaces and the moments when this participation intersects with, and binds to, public forms of intercultural collective engagement, whether artistic, political, or both. Empirical and theoretical papers address some overriding questions, such as: what role do culture and the arts play in the lives of newcomers and descendants of migrants? Which cultural and artistic practices and forms of participation do newcomers and descendants of immigrants develop? How do cultural institutions take into account those publics often considered to be disengaged at the cultural and artistic level? Do these cultural practices contribute to creating bonds of solidarity between migrants and natives? And if so, what forms of political representation and collective engagement do they inspire? The papers included in this special issue present diverse but connected approaches to the broad themes of art and border crossings. 

see PDF 


Drivers of cultural participation of immigrants: evidence from an Italian survey (published in Cultural Economics)

E. Bertacchini, A. Venturini and R. Zotti

Department of Economics and Statistics “Cognetti de Martiis”, University of Torino.

The paper aims to explore the drivers of immigrants’ participation to cultural and leisure activities in host countries. First, we discuss how the main analytical approaches on cultural participation can be extended to incorporate factors specific to migrants’ characteristics and behaviour, namely dimensions of proximity to the native population’s culture and the level of integration in the host society. Secondly, we investigate migrants’ propensity for consumption of cultural and leisure activities using data of a special national survey on Income and Living conditions (2011-2012) on foreign households in Italy. Italy represents an interesting case because it is a recent immigration country, making the analysis particularly suitable for studying the behaviour of first-generation immigrants. Our findings suggest that language proficiency, duration of stay and intention to remain in the host country significantly increase the probability to access various types of leisure and cultural activities. Interestingly, after controlling for standard individual predictors, several dimensions of an immigrant’s cultural background and proximity with the culture of the host society still significantly explain variation in cultural participation rates, confirming that cultural differences play a role in migrants’ cultural consumption choice.


IZA (Institute for Labour Economics). Discussion Paper Series. Cultural Change and the Migration Choice. (2018)

Mauro Lanati (MPC, European University Institute)     Alessandra Venturini (University of Turin, EUI and IZA) - March 2018
Cultural differences play an important role in shaping migration patterns. The conventional proxies for cross country cultural differences – such as common language, ethnicity, genetic traits or religion – implicitly assume that cultural proximity between two countries is constant over time and symmetric, which is far from realistic. This paper proposes a tractable model for international migration which explicitly allows for the time varying and asymmetric dimensions of cultural proximity. Similarly to Disdier et al (2010) we assume that the evolution of bilateral cultural affinity over time is reflected in the intensity of bilateral trade in cultural goods. Our empirical framework includes a comprehensive set of high dimensional fixed effects which enables for the identification of the impact of cultural proximity on migration over and beyond the effect of pre-existing cultural and historical ties. The results are robust across different econometric techniques and suggest that positive changes in cultural relationships over time foster bilateral migration.
EconTalk Blog. What drives cultural participation of immigrants in the host country? (Forthcoming)
Bertacchini E., Zotti R., Venturini A.
Università degli Studi di Torino

Migration has become in the last decades one of the overarching phenomena at the global level. Much of the academic and policy debate has focused on the determinants of economic and social integration in the receiving societies, but very little attention has been devoted to migrants’ engagement in the arts and cultural activities and more generally on their cultural integration. Using Italy as a case study, we find that, rather than personal cultural capital, cultural participation is significantly and primarily driven by the process of acculturation which takes place during the stay in the host country. At the same time, the effect of migrants’ cultural background is more complex, varying across cultural groups and depending on the type of cultural activities considered.

An extensive literature in both economics and sociology has theoretically and empirically unveiled the determinants of cultural participation. Jointly with standard factors linked to market conditions and households’ time and economic resources, theoretical models have highlighted how engagement in arts and cultural activities crucially depends on the process of taste formation, that can be in turn explained by some forms of culture-specific consumption capital. Despite the substantial cultural participation research, the majority of works have rarely studied and provided evidence on factors that affect the variation and accumulation of culture-specific consumption capital by migrants, thus explaining the accessibility to cultural goods and activities available in the hosting society by this segment of its population.

In our study, we tried to shed light on these factors by identifying two additional channels specific to the immigrant population, namely the individual process of acculturation and the heterogeneity in cultural traits at immigrant group level (Fernandez, 2011). The former relates to the level of integration in the new society (Berry, 1997) and is generally captured through several dimensions, such as the years of residence in the destination country, proficiency in the language of the host country and the degree of socialization with natives. The latter channel refers instead to the effects of cultural values and beliefs (or their proximity with the culture of the host country) on the variation in behavior and outcomes of individuals who share the same institutional environment (Fernandez, 2011). Common measures to capture migrants’ cultural values are the nationality or religion, while one of the most commonly adopted measures of cultural proximity remains the similarity among languages.

We empirically test the influence of these channels on immigrants’ decision to engage in leisure and cultural activities by using data from a unique survey conducted by the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) in 2011-2012 on living conditions on a sample of 25,000 individuals from households with foreign-born members.

Italy represents an interesting case study because, compared to other Western European countries, it is characterized by a more recent history of immigration flows, which makes it possible to better analyze the behavior of first-generation immigrants and their degree of adjustement in the new context. In addition, the Italian language is scarcely spread globally and thus it enables researchers to better identify the effect that linguistic barriers have on immigrants’ cultural participation in the destination country.

In our empirical analysis we use a latent class model (zero-inflated ordered probit) to jointly estimate non-participation and intensity of engagement in cultural activities, and we control for a large set of individual and environmental characteristics. The analysis is carried out for distinct leisure and cultural activities, namely sport events, dancing venues, cinema, theater and music concerts.

Our findings indicate that, even after controlling for individual characteristics usually used to explain cultural participation, the immigrants’ level of integration and, to a lesser extent, their cultural background play a role in explaining differences in cultural consumption. Cultural participation is significantly and primarily driven by different dimensions of integration in the host country, suggesting that the acculturation process is crucial to build culture-specific consumption capital and favor the accessibility to cultural products in the host society. Conversely, participation in cultural and leisure activities is only partially explained by differences in cultural traits peculiar to immigrant communities, with individuals whose cultural traits are more distant  from the Italian context (such as those from Asian and Arab countries) being the least active in cultural participation.

The use of zero inflated models to analyze cultural consumption also offers some insights as to the role and effectiveness of cultural policies aimed at immigrants’ inclusion in the Italian context. Far from pursuing assimilation of migrant minorities, standard integration policies that favor the long-term economic and social adaptation in the host society might still matter to reduce on average the propensity not to participate in cultural and leisure activities. At the same time, for some cultural activities (e.g. Cinema and Theatre) our results suggest that there is a large share of non-attendance among potential participants that could be reduced with targeted interventions to mitigate the constraints (i.e. time, economic, information) on cultural consumption. Moreover, these audience development policies need to be tailored on specific minorities as the observed rate of non-consumption is often not strictly linked to a cultural barrier to participation.


Survey of the empirical methods adopted to measure the effects of cultural consumption on wellbeing and its components (Forthcoming)

Ricci A., Venturini A., Mosso C. 

Università degli Studi di Torino 

A vast body of research has demonstrated that group singing has a positive repercussion on participants' well-being and health. Many studies have shown a significant impact on subjective well-being and people health. Much less has been done on the effects of group singing on labour-related skills developed by participants. The complexity of the theme and the difficulty of finding adequate indicators to investigate this issue necessitate a more exhaustive review about tests and indicators. We started by organising the literature about group singing and well-being already available. In this review, we choose to include only the more recent research to prevent the dissemination of outdated information. We found incredible interdisciplinarity governing this theme and many useful indicators. What is evident is the impossibility of using a single or a coherent series of indicators, either qualitative or quantitative. In all the research work available, we found qualitative and quantitative indicators used complementarily. The coupling of questionnaires and physiological indicators, such as saliva samples, or subjective indicators and hormone detection, provides more robust evidence of the positive impact of group singing on well-being. Significant research has not been done about the effect of group-singing on developing personal and soft skills that can be deployed in the labour market. Teamwork, reliability, problem solving, and being part of a community could be essential characteristics that enable the group participant to find a better job. Nevertheless, research has demonstrated the difficulty to identify riliable indicators to represent and detect these dimensions.