The cultural dimension may affect the growth of per capita income. The choices made by citizens to keep their knowledge up-to-date and efficient, trought the fruition of cultural and physical activities, for example, contribute to build the social capital of a country. Beyond economic factors, the analysis of citizens' behaviours in the cultural sphere is a key factor in the attempt to measure the personal well-being and social cohesion.
Households' expenditure on cultural consumption is a key indicator identified by the European Union to evaluate policies aimed at improving living conditions and welfare in the long run. In 2019, Italian households spent on average 6.7% of the total final consumption expenditure on recreation and culture.
In 2020, the share of book readers increased, it amounted to 41.4% of people aged 6 years old and over (40.0% in 2019). Among these, 44.6% read up to three books a year, while the "strong readers" (12 or more books read in a year) were 15.2%. Reading books was mainly the prerogative of young people (in the age group between 11 and 19) and women.
In 2020, the share of printed newspapers readers further slowed down. Men generally read more newspapers than women did and, for both sexes, the largest share of readers belonged to the adult age group, from 45 years old upwards.
Compared to 2019, the percentage of individuals reading information, newspapers and magazines on the Internet increased from 36.2% to 40.4%. The phenomenon was more widespread among men (with a difference of 5.4 percentage points compared to women) and among people in the age group between 25 and 34 years (around 60%).
In 2020, 45.3% of printed books were also distributed in the e-book format, but only 11.6 % of internet users used the network to access digital books, with an increase of 2.1 percentage points compared to 2019. Young people between 16 and 24 years old were the more frequent users.
In 2020, a general decrease in all cultural activities carried out outside the home. The greatest decreases, compared to 2019, mainly involved theatrical performances (15.7% compared to 20.3% in 2019), visits to museums and exhibitions (27.3% compared to 31.8% in 2019), music concerts other than classical music and cinema shows (both down by 3 percentage points compared to 2019).
As for sports activities in free time, in 2019, the propensity was higher among males and it involved little more than a third of the population aged three years and more. Only a quarter of the population was engaged in sports on a regular basis.
The share of spending on recreation time and culture showed a significant regional variability. In 2019, the highest value of expenditure on cultural goods and services was observed in the North-west, where it accounted for approximately 7.3% of the total expenditure for final consumption. In the regions of the Centre, the value was equal to 6.5% and in the South and Islands, it was equal to 5.6%. The regions where households have spent more of the final expenditure on cultural and recreational consumption were Piemonte (8%), Emilia-Romagna (7.6%), Lombardia, Umbria and the Autonomous Province of Trento (7.3%). In Italy, between 2004 and 2018, the share decreased by 0.6 percentage points. A similar trend was observed for all the territorial subdivisions and Regions. In particular, the greatest reduction was registered in the Centre (-0.9 percentage points) influenced by the negative results of all the Regions of the area, particularly Toscana and Lazio (respectively -1.2 and -0.9 percentage points). However, due to the price dynamics of the recreation and culture sector, compared to that of the total consumption, the expenditure on cultural consumption, from 2004 to 2018, increased on average in real terms by 0.6%. The largest annual average increase over the period considered was registered in the North-west (1.3%), while the South and Islands decreased on average by 0.3%.
In 2019, the regions of the South and Islands, compared to those of the Centre and North, showed a lower propensity to read books (30.2% compared to 47.1%), with the exception of Sardinia that registered a higher share of readers (40.7%), compared to the other regions of the South and Islands.
In 2020, in the North, compared to other geographical areas, reading newspapers involved a higher percentage of residents, mostly in Northeast (41.0%). Sardinia was again an exception: the share of readers exceeded that observed in some northern regions (39.3%), as well as the share of strong readers (35.0% of people aged 6 years and over read newspaper 5 or more times a week).
In 2020, the use of the internet to read newspapers and on line magazines was more widespread in the Northeast (45.7%), while it was less widespread in Southern Italy (33.6%), with the exception of Sardinia (42.5%). The autonomous province of Bolzano ranked first among the regions (48.3%), followed by Emilia-Romagna (46.7%), while Calabria and Campania ranked at the bottom (less than one person out of three).
In 2020, the highest percentage of digital books readers’ was registered in the Center-North (12.6%).
In 2020, the generalized decrease of cultural activities consumption involved all the country. Consequently, the gap in the participation to cultural events between the Center-North and the South increased. The regional gap was higher for museums and exhibitions (respectively 31.7% in the Center-North and 18.7% in the South), archaeological sites and monuments (28.6% and 18.8%).
As for sports during free time, in 2019, the highest propensity was recorded in the Centre and North (39.6%) and it was particularly high in Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol (52.7%). The lowest propensity, instead, was recorded in the South and Islands (26.0%), which showed the highest share of inactive people.
In 2019, the share of Italian household expenditure for cultural consumption (6.7%) is lower than the EU average (9.1% for the EU28 and 8.7% for the EU27). The countries placed at the bottom of the European ranking, and which showed a share of expenditure on cultural consumption lower than the Italian average one are: Luxembourg, Greece and Portugal. At the opposite, there is a large group of countries (including Sweden, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Germany and Finland) whose expenditure on cultural consumption exceeded 10%. In Italy, in 2020, 49% of people read newspapers and magazines on Internet. Italy ranked third to last, while Finland ranked first (90%). The average value registered in EU27 is equal to 66%.